Gratitude for Impact Spotlight Stories

Meet one of our teaching artists, Colleen Unda!

My name is Colleen Unda and I am a lead Teaching Artist for DMF Youth.

You may think DMF Youth’s impact is limited to the students it serves.  But the truth is, DMF Youth’s philosophies, culture, and approach to learning have reshaped my views as a teacher, coach, artist, and human.  I’ve grown exponentially as a teacher AND as a human since working at DMF Youth, developing a better understanding of myself and my purpose. I infuse DMF Youth’s methodologies into other teaching jobs, performances, and my day-to-day life. 

The result? Compounded impact.  When you support DMF Youth, you invest in educators and artists that spread its teachings to other children, adults, and communities in NYC.

How cool is that!

I applied for DMF Youth in the spring of 2021, while still living in Massachusetts.  I hoped to move to New York by the summer to pursue my dance, fitness,  and comedy career. When browsing job postings, DMF Youth caught my eye because of its Social Emotional Learning (SEL)-based curriculum.

While I liked teaching dance in a traditional dance studio setting, I always felt there was something missing. After doing some research on DMF Youth and SEL, I fell in love with the idea that I could teach dance AND help students build self-esteem, learn how to feel and show empathy, understand their inner critic, and make decisions responsibly. 

Before DMF Youth, I thought of student growth mostly in a technical and creative sense– how much flexibility dancers gained,  how many turns they could conquer, how they infused dynamics into movement.

Now, I celebrate students’ growth as human beings, not just dancers.

DMF Youth’s robust teacher training, professional development, and constant support helped me learn how to teach students holistically and drove me to implement key SEL concepts into my daily life. The idea of holistic growth vs. skill based growth has transformed both my personal and professional life. I’ve discovered my purpose–helping students and clients reach their goals and believe in themselves through healthy movement and mindset.

Since joining the DMF Youth team, I’ve learned how to take better care of myself. Practicing what I preach helps my students and clients see what is possible and also reminds them that many of these tools are exactly that – a practice. I know that many of the skills we teach at DMF Youth will be remembered long after students graduate from the program. I know this because I still remember what my dance teachers taught me. 

Unfortunately, many of the lessons I remember weren’t so great for my self-esteem and image–lessons like “holding your core when you stand up can make you look skinnier!”  Ugh.  I WISH I learned what we teach at DMF Youth sooner– how exercise helps your body and mind feel good, how developing a growth mindset allows you to tackle challenges like a boss, and how mindfulness and positive self-talk can help reframe negative thoughts. Teaching these tools to impressionable young minds is powerful and I’ve seen so many students (and adults) grow as a result of DMF Youth programs. Personally, DMF Youth has helped me in my journey to love the body I was given, and I’m grateful I can help others do the same.

If I could tell supporters one thing about DMF Youth, I would tell them these programs are critical.

Every single child deserves, and quite frankly needs, a program like DMF Youth–a  program that teaches them how to build healthy habits, keep going when they want to quit, and practice kindness and empathy daily. When you support DMF Youth, your impact goes far beyond the students served.

Your impact is compounded with teachers like me, who take the lessons learned at DMF Youth and spread them far and wide in the broader community.

Help create impact just like our teaching artists and donate below!