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Fusing Dance and Education to Reach Underserved Kids

Jun 20, 2019

One person. One teacher. One educator. One mentor.

Zhane Dill knows that one person is all it takes to change someone’s life.

“Someone did it for me. So I really wanted to be the person to do it for someone else. That’s everything for me,” she says, with a huge smile on her face.

Zhane was able to take difficult experiences from her past and transform them into a purposeful career and a life that she absolutely loves. 

Zhane’s challenges.

Zhane grew up in what she describes as a “not abandoned, but definitely sometimes

forgotten-about area.” She didn’t have educational advantages; she was lucky that her parents were educated and were able to help supplement her learning. She watched friends who weren’t so lucky struggle.

“I'm like, ‘Oh they’re so smart,’ but there’s no one holding them accountable,” she remembers. “There’s no one helping them.” 

On top of living in a lower-income area and lacking educational advantages, Zhane had the responsibility to care for her mother, who was sick.

“My mom has diabetes and multiple sclerosis, as well as heart disease, and when I turned 12, she lost her sight,” Zhane says. “So I became more mature at a very early age. I had to be very responsible. I had to take care of my younger sibling and my mother as well.”  

While these challenges were difficult, Zhane says she didn’t mind taking them on because of the love she has for her family. 

“Love conquers all, and everything I did, I did out of love,” she says.

Connecting dance and education.

Zhane’s background gives her a unique insight into the challenges that other kids face growing up. That’s why she founded a non-profit organization that offers dance education and opportunities to lower-income students all throughout the year. 

“They don’t have those extra opportunities,” she says. “They’re not curious about the world. They’re not learning about politics, but when you open their mind to these other opportunities and these other experiences, now they’re interested.” 

Zhane says that these extracurricular activities help students find their curiosity and open their minds to new possibilities. She says many of her students now have new interest in potential careers, all because they were exposed to new adventures as part of her dance company.

These kinds of opportunities and the impact she can have on students are reasons why Zhane loves teaching and why her degree made such an impact on her ability to pursue her goals.

One degree shapes the future.

As Zhane worked to help disadvantaged kids in her community, she realized she needed to improve her own teaching ability. 

“I got tired of having several credits on a nondescript English degree that I didn’t know what I was going to do with, so I sent an email,” Zhane says with a laugh.

She says she isn’t a traditional learner, and likes to move on her own schedule. So she knew WGU would be a great fit for her needs. 

“I really needed someone that’s going to work with me because I'm going to panic and give up, and I got all those things from WGU,” she says.

Zhane says several of her courses touched her and helped her become a better educator. They worked well both for her teaching career and as she continued her work with her non-profit. Courses like classroom management helped her feel more confident about working with students.

Her journey wasn’t always smooth, however, as she nearly ran out of financial aid just a year and a half into her degree.

“I was super worried mostly about student loans and paying those back. It was terribly scary,” she admits. 

Zhane was able to receive a scholarship that helped her pay her tuition and finish her degree. 

“I like to say that they gave me a little blessing,” she says with a laugh.

Zhane’s future.

Zhane’s degree at WGU changed her life—even before she graduated. When she did her student teaching at a private school in her area, the administration was so impressed with her, they hired her.

She finished up her degree and had a job right out of the gate.

Zhane teaches kids who are non-traditional learners, much like herself. Her coursework at WGU helped her be prepared for this kind of teaching, and her love for it fuels her energy every day.

But Zhane has even more things on her horizon.

“I love it. I am so happy, but next month, I start a master’s program at Western Governors University,” she laughs. 

Zhane’s experience at WGU shows how the right mentor, scholarship donor, and university can help you meet your goals. And now, Zhane is that one teacher, mentor, and friend to her students in the classroom and in her dance company.

One person who is changing the lives of students everywhere.

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