GARDENA, Calif. — At the age of six, Gardena native Vanessa Silva enrolled in Mexican folkloric dancing.
“Ballet folklórico — I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving it,” she said.
Ten years later, she’s still dancing. But as she enters her junior year of high school, life is coming at her fast.
“Gardena is known for a lot for gangs, and fights. Not getting into a college, stopping right after high school or not graduating high school,” she said.
And Vanessa has seen kids all around her fall into bad habits or bad company.
“You could go the right path or the bad path,” she said. “It just depends who you’re around with, you know.”
To help keep Vanessa and 50 other kids focused on their futures, LA Council District 15 has awarded the Nuestras Raices dance company a grant. Founder, director, and choreographer for Nuestras Raices, Argelia Andrade, spoke to Spectrum News during a break.
“We are so excited to have gotten this $30,000 grant. Essentially, what it will allow us to do is bring back all the families, who for whatever reason, because they’ve lost their job or because they have to work harder to make ends meet, they have not been able to come back to the studio.”
The funding comes from the $88 million the city redirected from the LAPD after last summer’s calls to defund police in the wake of massive protests supporting Black Lives Matter. The majority of the money is going to community intervention workers and youth programs. But about $3 million in Council District 15 went into dozens of local grants — from college prep to food kitchens.
“The funds that were funneled to our organization are very useful because we indeed keep kids off the streets,” said Andrade.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore says he trusts the money was awarded appropriately.
“The key here is that they reach programs that are going to reduce violence, that’s going to improve the safety of the community and that those are important moneys to be spent. At the same time, public safety or community safety is not an either-or business,” Moore said.
He says it takes both the work of the LAPD and the work of programs like Nuestras Raices to keep kids safe and engaged on the right path.
“Practice is what motivates me to do better,” said Vanessa.
Discipline and hard work. They’re not just good skills for dance; they are good skills for life.