DEA dance program teaches children confidence and skills to avoid drugs

BOSTON — When you think about the Drug Enforcement Administration, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't hip hop dance.

But for the last five years, the DEA has funded an after school program that introduces students to dance as healthy outlet.
Once a week, a science lab at the Nathan Hale School in Roxbury is transformed by the art of dance – it's called the DEA's Youth Dance Program. 

"I feel happy I can't even express how happy I am,” student Angel Maldonado said.

Angel is one of the students learning all the moves, but the lessons go far beyond the dance floor.

"All about getting them to move, getting them to feel comfortable, getting them to support each other,” dance instructor Henry Casdon said.

Casdon, an instructor from the Rainbow Tribe Inc., says comfort on the dance floor translates into confidence, and that confidence soars after just one hour a week for 10 weeks.

"So if we can build up these kids self-esteem, give them some confidence it's all good,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson said.

The DEA funds the program in seven New England schools so far; three of those are in Boston.

The program is offered to fifth graders, an age when students begin facing important decisions.

"It's all about trying to get these kids to stay away from away from negative peer pressure,” Ferguson said.

They gain confidence to make good choices through performing.

"They teach me how to be healthy and they teach me how to dance, it's basically the combo,” Angel said.

At the end of the program, the group performs in front of the community.

Taking everything they've learned and holding their heads high on the dance floor and beyond.

"The nice things they say help me wake up in the morning,” Angel said.

Their final performance will happen in the school yard Thursday afternoon. Parents, teachers, other family members are invited to come and see what ten weeks of building confidence looks like.