Khadijah Philpot has a passion for dancing, but she can't afford to pay for lessons.
A student at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, she receives free dance instruction two days a week after school. This is her fifth year in the program.
"My family is pretty much low-income. We live paycheck to paycheck, just about," said 16-year-old Khadijah. "Here is the only place that accepted me as a student. Dance is my strongest subject."
Through a grant of $14,951.66 awarded to the Rachel Longstreet Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that founded the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, Khadijah dances to music pumped through new sound equipment. When the downstairs portion of the school is complete, she will also benefit from new lighting for musical and theatrical performances. The funds were donated by the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area.
Recently, Khadijah glided across a temporary stage to Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror in preparation for a school showcase next month. She loves virtually all forms of dance -- ballet, tap, jazz, modern, classical, Caribbean and African.
"It really helps me get away from school and home and personal issues. Sometimes when it gets tough at home, I usually just dance my feelings," she said. "Very few people know that I dance. It's sort of like a private journal."
The arts school offers instruction in dance, drama, music and visual art. Khadijah also excels at writing and acting, said her mentor Linda Ball, who has worked with Khadijah for five years through the Teens With Hope program.
"She is really a gifted child. I've seen her evolve, and I think the Jessye Norman Center has a lot to do with it. Her dancing is phenomenal," Ball said.
The high school sophomore hopes to double major in dance and physics in college.
"One day I hope to become a great dancer, but the only thing that really discourages me is the money. This is a very good program for people who can't really afford to go to regular dance companies and get the high-tech and top-notch stuff. We have a lot of talent here," Khadijah said.