“One, two, three, four, five, six,“ Mary Lucas says as she swings her hips first to the left and then the right while holding her arms above her head. Mirrors surround her on three …
“One, two, three, four, five, six,“ Mary Lucas says as she swings her hips first to the left and then the right while holding her arms above her head. Mirrors surround her on three sides. There’s no music. She’s watching Mark Fratus. Mark is watching her. He’s got it down and the pair is in synch….at least for now.
Taking a breather, Mary says most people freeze up when they realize they’ll be performing in front of a live audience. That isn’t an issue with Mark. At least he doesn’t think so.
“I’m in front of groups all the time,” says the director of the Warwick Health Equity Zone program run by the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP). That’s true, Mark can be counted on to stand up and speak to an assembly with virtually no notice. He’s passionate about building community.
Well, he hasn’t had any dancing lessons until now. In fact, it took him all of ten seconds to sign up as a dancer for the Dancing with the Stars for Mentoring competition to be held March 30 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. That surprised Jo-Ann Schofield , president and CEO of Mentor RI who was desperately looking to recruit male dancers for an event that is the major fundraiser for the non-profit that matches adult volunteers with more than school students for one hour a week during school hours. A number of male candidates had told they would think over such a commitment, only to tell her after a week that maybe they would have time next year.
And here was Mark saying unequivocally he would do it. Even after being told this wasn’t going to be easy, that he would invest more than four hours of practice for a two minute performance and that he was expected to raise money, he still said he was aboard.
On Thursday afternoon at Dancing Feeling, the Warwick dance studio that has teamed up with Mentor RI from the start 16 years ago for this spectacular event, Mark paused in the routine.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “This is fun. I want to have fun doing this and I want to raise as much money as I can.”
Then came the clincher and could produce butterflies in his stomach.
“I don’t dance.”
That doesn’t perturb Mary, who lives on Gaspee Point and got a degree in psychology from RIC and planned on going into social work when a stop at Dancing Feeling with her mother put her on a different track. Mary was signing her mother up for dancing lessons. She met Kathy St. Jean, co-director of the studio with Randy Deats. Mary liked the culture of the studio. She got along with Kathy and took a desk job that lead to her becoming one of the studio’s dance teachers.
She has no qualms her newest student will be fine. They like the same music and their interests – working with people and the community. Mark is buoyed by her confidence. He points out that ever since he was a kid he played sports and there are parallels to dancing. He swings his hips going through the motions of batting a ball. She does the same raising her arms gracefully. He does the same. They could be dancing. They have gotten the routine down.
On this year’s dance card
Not only has Mark spent a lot of time at the studio, but so too have eight others paired with professional dancers for the Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring to be held March 31 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet . Their stories have a similar theme of believing in the importance of mentoring and wanting to help.
The dancing lineup includes:
Mentor Rhode Island was spawned by the Warwick Education Foundation, an offshoot of the Warwick Chamber of Commerce, which is now the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. Mentor RI operates school-based mentoring programs in Warwick, Aquidneck Island and surrounding areas, Woonsocket, and DelSesto Middle School in Providence. The organization has established a network of over 60 mentoring programs that it supports with training, technical assistance, and professional development for mentor program coordinators. Collectively, they serve more than 5,000 youth with 2,300 mentors statewide. Most recently, the organization has created communities of practice for mentoring programs receiving flow-through funding from a federal earmark through Sheldon Whitehouse’s office (21 programs) as well as a Providence specific initiative, Relationships at the Center, (17 programs)which prioritizes strong relationships for youth as a solution to youth violence.
Schofield said, “We are mentors! We mentor our partnering programs so that they have access to and utilize evidence-based program practices so the kids they serve have the best possible outcomes, and in our direct service programs, we mentor our mentors, so they are supported when they have questions or encounter a situation they need help with…. Ultimately they become part of the MENTOR RI family.”
Schofield said the organization needs more mentors and urged those interested to call 401-732-7700.
As for tickets to Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring March 31, she said sales have gone extremely well.
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