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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Fortunato

Swing for Kids: Inspire and Empower

By Kim Kays

My name is Kim Kays and I’m the Executive Director for a brand new Non-Profit in Chicago called Swing for Kids. I started swing dancing four years ago and vividly recall witnessing my first jam circle. The energy, passion, and love for the music was evident in every dancer that was brave enough to jump in the middle. From that moment on, I was hooked. Obsessed even. I began taking classes (sometimes three nights a week) and attended every social dance Chicago had to offer. Then came the traveling. I began attending Lindy Hop workshops around the country to learn more and more and more. Swing Dance inspired me and became my life. Not only was I inspired to better myself, I became empowered to try new things, meet new people, and step out of the box. With my newly gained confidence, I was able to push myself and succeed in other aspects of my life. I took more risks. I became a better music teacher from the skills I acquired through learning Swing. Then there was the music, so fun and full of energy and playfulness. A whole new world was opened up to me when I stumbled upon Swing Dance.

Sharing the Inspiration

I loved Swing Dancing so much that it began to infiltrate other aspects of my life. I encouraged everyone I knew to attend beginner lessons. I even started integrating Swing Dance into my elementary and middle school music classes, and was blown away by the results. Not only did my students love the music and history of Swing, while learning this fun new skill, they developed discipline, teamwork, and creativity. I saw students who rarely spoke, helping each other get that pesky rock step. They began teaching each other and became more caring with each other. Last year, they came to me with the idea of making our very own I, Charleston the World video and helped to choreograph and film it themselves.

After seeing the positive impact the program had on my students, the idea of expanding youth access to Swing Dance Instruction in Chicago dominated my thoughts. I reached out to local swing dance instructors, made a plan, formed a board, and Swing for Kids was born! That oversimplifies things a bit, but you get the idea. It has taken months of research, hours of  meetings, and a lot of consulting with lawyers and other people already established in the Non-Profit sector. It has been truly amazing seeing the Chicago swing dance community come together and help make Swing for Kids a reality.

What is Swing for Kids?

You may be wondering what exactly Swing for kids does! Our mission is to inspire and empower students through Swing Dance. We do this by providing a 10-week in-school Swing Dance program to 5th Graders that promotes Social & Emotional skills, Cultural Competency, and Health & Wellness. The curriculum was designed by experienced educators and dancers in Chicago as a developmentally appropriate supplement to music or gym class.  Our program is offered once a week for forty-five minutes during regular school hours so that every student can participate and benefit. The program culminates with the Swing for Kids Jazz Ball, a special event in which students dress up, teach parents and guests basic dance steps, and perform to a live Jazz band. Local Swing Dancers are invited to perform to inspire students to set ambitious goals, believe in their full potential, and explore new ways to contribute to a vibrant, culturally aware community.

It has taken a lot of hard work to get started and I’m proud to say that Swing for Kids will pilot in three Chicago Public Schools this spring. We hope to expand to ten schools in the 2015 school year, and 25 the year after that. If we reach our goal, we will be sharing the beauty and energy of Swing Dance with over 1,500 students in Chicago by 2016. I think Frankie would approve!

How can you help?

Swing for Kids is currently seeking sponsors and partners of all kinds! In order for us to reach our expansion goals, we need funds! Make a donation, or buy a ticket to our first annual Swing for Kids benefit. If you are unable to donate, but know someone looking for an inspiring and empowering Non-Profit to support, pass our information along to them!

Can’t donate, but still want to help? Spread the word about Swing for Kids throughout the Swing community and other organizations who maybe be able to send funds our way! Like and share our page on facebook, blog about us, and tweet about @Swing4Kids! If you live in Chicago and would like more information about being an instructor or volunteering for Swing for Kids, contact

With your help, we can inspire and empower thousands of students in Chicago through the joy of Swing Dancing!

Contributed by Kim Kays

Kim Kays is the Executive Director for a brand new Non-Profit in Chicago called Swing for Kids.

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