It is a weekday afternoon, and the sound of music can be heard coming from the Crestview Terrace Community Center in the City of San Bernardino. Inside, fifteen young girls are eagerly following along as their instructor, Nichole Nichols, leads them through a series of ballet steps.
Nichole has recently joined the Hope through Housing Team as a Services Coordinator and Youth Specialist. In her role, she oversees the teen club, the after-school program, sports training and dance classes at Crestview Terrace. In addition to youth services, Nichole provides workshops for all the residents of the community, focusing on health and wellness, arts and crafts, self-care and growth.
“It means the world to me to be able to help people, bringing them out of a tough situation and giving them an opportunity for something more,” Nichole said.
It is Nichole’s desire to create a positive and engaging environment that fosters a safe, respectful and motivating space for her residents to learn and grow. She works with the residents, learning their wants and needs, and develops programming that will help residents of all ages thrive.
Nichole has more than ten years of experience working in after-school programming and dance. It has always been her dream to teach ballet to underprivileged girls, a group that is traditionally underrepresented in ballet. With Hope through Housing’s new dance program, she has finally achieved that goal.
“To see little versions of me doing ballet, it’s awesome,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to teach little girls like me to dance. It is a bucket item I can check off of my list.”
Research has shown that when educators reflect the culturally diverse communities they serve, students of color are able to see themselves in the leaders that surround them at school or in class. It allows children to imagine bigger dreams for their futures, which is what Nichole hopes to do in her work at Crestview Terrace.
“If they’re learning from someone that looks like them, they’re going to get a lot out of it and that is the most important part,” Nichole said. “I hope they learn that in this space they matter and that somebody cares about them enough to teach them life skills.”