The Aspire Project

Building Blocks for Dreams to Stand On

At the Aspire Project, dance isn’t just about learning the right steps. It’s about learning that hard work and discipline are the building blocks for achieving dreams. Sue Darrow, Founder and Executive Director would know, as Aspire was built on her own hard work, discipline and a dream of offering dance to all.

At Aspire Project, everyone is welcome. Since many students at Aspire are the first in their families to dance, offering encouragement and maintaining a positive environment is key. One young student enthusiastically exclaimed, “You don’t even have to be good to try!” That goes for kids and adults. Students at Aspire range in age from 3-83 and in level from beginner to advanced. Regardless of where a student begins, Aspire Project emphasizes that practice is essential for success.

Along with not turning anyone away for lack of skill, they also won’t turn anyone away for lack of funds. In fact, making sure dance is affordable was a key component of Sue’s dream and continues to be central to their work. Nearly 50% of Aspire’s enrollment is from low-income families, the majority of which are able to be supported by scholarships thanks to fundraising efforts by the staff and board. In addition, recitals are entirely free to both dancers and families. Beyond that, in recent years a few students who decided dance was really ¬†something they wanted to pursue successfully auditioned for Oregon Ballet Theatre. Aspire Project helped them with a financial aid application and paid a portion of their tuition to make it possible for them to attend.

The Aspire Project was also built with a well-rooted understanding of the value of community and education which is why they partner with five North Portland after school programs to provide tuition free dance classes, and host an youth summer camp through the Rosewood Initiative. With arts and physical education struggling to make the cut in school budgets, these programs provide an essential component of a well-rounded education kids are not getting through their schools. The programs also introduce dance to those who may otherwise never have the opportunity take lessons or perform.

Hard work, discipline, creativity, physical education and the message that anyone can achieve their dreams with the right attitude and training- these are the blocks that The Aspire Project was built upon….

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