By Laurie Gordon
Christie Taylor, a Sparta native, is taking her passions to the next level: this time, at a much larger scale, in New York City. Her formative years with Pass It Along helped give her the tools and self-confidence, and now she's combined her passion for the arts and community service into one, establishing Center Stage for Change.
The organization is located in Harlem and gives youth the opportunity to express their talents in performing arts, while working to raise funds to address social issues.
“I grew up in Sparta and went to Sparta High School,” Taylor said. “I've been doing strictly hip-hop for as long as I can remember whether it was attending a class or dancing with my family in the kitchen.”
In addition to dance, she passionate about lacrosse, track, and Pass It Along. Based in Sparta at the time Taylor was involved, Pass It Along's mission is “To build confident, resilient, compassionate teenagers through self-discovery, volunteer and leadership opportunities.”
Taylor harnessed the mission.
“My favorite program was Tilly's Kids,and this is where I started teaching dance. Pass It Along taught me that I could use my passion (dancing) to help give back to the world," she said.
For about a year, once a week Taylor would teach a group of seven girls in the basement of a church in Newark.
“I grew to love teaching because I saw the joy it brought the girls here,” she said.
After graduating college, Taylor worked as Americorps member at Pass It along.
“Here, I led Service Corps, where I help students come up with a capstone service-project through an in-depth curriculum known as go-lead. I saw the strong desire these students had to make a difference in the world and I could see what they were truly capable of. I wanted to give this opportunity to all kids because I saw our beneficial it was.”
She wanted to give kids living in low-income areas access to the performing arts and a chance to show talent.
“I also wanted them to have the platform to look at the root causes of the issues going on in their community and give them the chance to create the change they wish to see (similar to Pass It Along). “
She started a small program in Asbury Park at a local boys and girls club. From there, she moved to New York City and taught dance at a charter school in Harlem.
“Seeing all the wonderful talent and love these kids had for dance I took another look at the program and started Center Stage for Change this past July,” she said. “We now have over 60 kids, renting out two studios in Harlem working with kids from ages six through 13.”
Taylor plans to continue to grow Center Stage for Change to include more kids.
“Hip-hop gets these kids out of there head and whatever is going on in there home and helps them have fun and stay focused in the present moment,” she said. “I have heard from many parents that it has built their child’s self-esteem. It helps kids stay active and it is a safe community we’re kids feel safe and welcomed...Hip-hop is an outlet for these kids but it is also a commitment.
For further information about Center Stage for Change, visit: https://www.centerstageforchange.com/ . Pass It Along is now located in Lafayette. For further information about Pass It Along and its fantastic programs for teens, visit: https://passitalong.org/ .