Jacqueline Vergez

written by PAMELA A. KEENE | photo by KELLE MAC PHOTOGRAPHY

jacquelineIn 1998, Alpharetta’s Jacqueline Vergez turned to dance lessons to navigate a difficult time in her life. “I foundthat when I was dancing, I didn’t think about anything else,” she said. “The ballroom and salsa classes relieved my stress and allowed me to meet new people. It was so much fun that I literally fell in love with it.”

Several years later, remembering her childhood shyness and struggles growing up in Manhattan, Vergez had a light-bulb moment. “Why not combine how much dance speaks to me with being able to help young people? After all, the teen years are so difficult, especially with the peer pressure, drugs, bullying and negative influence. [Dance] could be a good outlet for them, not only to give them a positive focus, but also to help them learn social skills and develop self-esteem.”

She created JV Outreach as a Georgia 501(c)(3) and began offering classes for ages 10 to 18 at a local recreation center and through Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance. Soon her program expanded to Fulton County middle schools and was taught by trained instructors at no charge to students. Within three years, the concept spread to 15 schools as well as to DanceFX in Johns Creek to make classes accessible on weekends.

To pay instructors, Vergez tirelessly contacts sponsors and organizes the group’s October fundraiser, featuring performances by many of the students. Additionally, JV Outreach has received grants from the Fulton County Board of Commissioners/Fulton County Arts Council.

“The community is realizing the impact of dance education and has been generous in supporting the organization,” she said. “More than 20,000 youth have benefitted since we were founded in 2004. In 2014, more than 10,000 young people participated in classes, training for dance competitions or simply for the fun of sharing the experience with new friends.”

Vergez’s commitment goes beyond fundraising and managing the logistics of scheduling. She’s been known to drive students to classes and competitions, personally purchase costumes and props, as well as attend classes, shows and events to give them encouragement and support.

“Our goal is to give any child in Atlanta the chance to experience dance, and that’s just what we’re doing,” she said. “By building their confidence, discipline and teamwork, we’re opening doors to the possibility of college educations, careers and a future.”

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