Position: Dance/Artistic Director
District: Chicago Public Schools
Location: Chicago, IL
Melinda is a teacher for Chicago Public Schools at a school on the southwest side of Chicago, one of the city’s poorest and most violent districts. 98.2% of the pupils live below the poverty line. Working with young people in Chicago Public Schools who face the greatest barriers to achieving their aspirations has been her life’s work. She is also the dance director at an after school program where students from Chicago Public Schools can take dance. Within one year, the program has tripled in its size.
The heart of her philosophy is that we should never lose sight of our students’ potential for greatness. Teaching dance with a hole in the floor, broken mirrors, and puddles that appear when it rains doesn’t really matter. Her facilities are limited, but her students’ minds aren’t, she says.
Melinda is concerned with the problems in the present day world. From the creativity and inspiration of her students, she creates images of empathy, compassion, darkness and comedy. In a sphere of unconcealed emotional feelings, she works tirelessly to educate and create options for impoverished youth. The students are kept very busy to say the least. Students are scheduled to perform over 15 times during a two-month period. Working with teams of kindred spirits for whom no unsolvable tasks exist, Wilson has choreographed 18 musicals, 20 dance concerts and over 50 choreographic pieces that have been performed throughout the world in her 20 years serving the students in Chicago Public Schools.
She is currently developing a community awareness program centred on human trafficking. Embedded in the curriculum is an exercise where students create and perform choreography that echoes their experiences and understandings of the topic.