Thursday, September 11, 2003

Jane Cheng, Uptown Arts


16-year-old helps kids get the chance to dance

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jane Cheng knows what's important to kids: Fun. Art. And dancing.

[photo]
Jane Cheng, a 16-year-old Walnut Hills High School student, has been helping students get involved with dance and acting programs at Uptown Arts in Over-The-Rhine for three years.
(Brandi Stafford photo)

That's exactly what the North Avondale teen gives to the children at the Uptown Arts Foundation, an Over-the-Rhine center that provides urban youth with free classes in art, music, theater and dance.

Jane, a 16-year-old Walnut Hills High School student, has been helping with dance and acting programs for three years. And she manages to squeeze that in among youth chorus, a number of lessons - from voice to Chinese - extracurricular clubs and the homework she has from four advanced-placement classes. And, oh yeah - she's a budding photographer.

Still, she finds a few hours each week to teach Uptown Art's children everything from ballet to hip-hop movement.

"Volunteering is a priority to me, so if something else comes up, I just don't do it," Jane said. "I enjoy these kids too much."

Mostly, Jane assists with the little tasks. She helps the little ones put on their shoes. She corrects the older children's dance positions. She picks volunteers to go on stage.

But she offers the children so much more. Such as consistency.

"These kids have enough unstable things in their lives. And if I'm not there, they miss me," she said. "They need me."

As an excellent student and an accomplished singer/dancer, Jane also is a role model for the youth.

"I think I'm a fairly decent example, at least I try to be, so some of them look up to me," Jane said. "I'm not too much older, so they can relate."

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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