Metropolis Outreach Helps a Life Starting Over

September 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

Kristen Gurbach Jacobson works with Amal Abbas in the Metropolis Outreach program.

Kristen Gurbach Jacobson works with Amal Abbas in the Metropolis Outreach program.

It’s 7:08 A.M. Amal Abbas is sitting in her school’s hallway, leaning against the wall, half asleep. She is waiting for class to begin. In this way, she is a normal 18-year-old. She is bright and cheerful, and has a smile that lights up the entire 900 seat theatre. It is Tuesday morning and she is waiting for dance class to begin at her new school, St. Scholastica Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Rogers Park, Chicago. Her tuition is paid for by a private donor. The Dance class is run by the Outreach department of Metropolis. Outreach Manager and Resident Choreographer Kristen Gurbach Jacobson teaches the class twice a week. “They look to us to bring a meaningful dance education to their students on a yearly basis. They’ve been an Outreach Partner for two years.”

In most other ways, Amal is not a normal 18-year-old. She is from Iraq. Her family lived in Baghdad. Her father died when she was one, and when she was 12, war broke out. The school that literally sat adjacent to her school was blown up by a bomb. After that, her mother, Nada, moved herself, Amal and her brother and sister to Amman, Jordan. They lived there for a year. Then one day, with 48 hours notice, they sold everything they had and moved to Chicago with the help of a United Nations agency. Amal has wiped the slate clean. “Starting from zero,” she says with a smile.

Amal entered the Metropolis Outreach dance program in September 2008. Dance is new to her. “I had never danced,” she says. “It is awesome… They don’t care if you can’t dance. She’s (teacher, Kristen Jacobson) supportive.” I ask her about adjusting to her new school while also rebuilding her life.

“Every day when I got home I was crying.” Her mother Nada, who speaks little English but understands much, gently laughs while demonstrating tears. Amal says the Metropolis Outreach program has helped her meet students, build confidence and have fun. She performed at Metropolis as part of Dance Week in May of 2009. “When we performed at Metropolis, I was so happy,” she gushes. “I didn’t think it would be that perfect for me.”

“This is exactly what we set out to do – to bring positive, artistic experiences to those who need it the most,” Jacobson says. “Our donors need to know that they help make programs like this one available to kids who need them…everyday kids dealing with everyday stresses or kids like Amal dealing with life altering experiences. Either way, the arts build confidence and help kids see the world differently.”

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