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Children from across Volusia County were dancing to the beat of a spiritual drum Aug. 11 at the annual I.D.M.E. (I Determine My Empowerment) recital, sponsored by New Hope Human Services, a ministry of New Hope Baptist Church in Deltona. The recital concluded the four-day camp of the arts.

For the past seven years, Mila Cooper and several members of the New Hope leadership team have grown this project from what she thought would be 12 students from her church, to 60 students, communitywide.

This year’s foundational Scripture for the camp was Jeremiah 1:5, which states, ”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” The theme of the camp was “Identity – Who Are You in Christ?”

Cooper, a Deltona High School and Florida A&M University graduate and the daughter of New Hope’s Pastor William Bradley and First Lady Dot Bradley, fell in love with dance at an early age, but did not become professionally trained until her high-school years. And, it was her time spent as a member of the Essence Dance Theater at FAMU that stemmed her idea of giving back to her community and church by providing a summer camp such as this.

“I wanted to create a positive atmosphere to let the students know that there are many avenues that they can explore,” said Cooper.

From choreography to serving breakfast and lunch to the campers, people eagerly volunteered and many took the week off from their jobs to offer their help. Cooper said her many thanks to the New Hope Services support team at the recital. They are Christena Henderson, Mia Bradley, Micha Nixon, Janae Ponder, Kyle Ponder, Dana Cooper, Kai Olude, Hannah Hudson, Cynthia Woods, Shelia Dixon, Leah Sticklen and Dot Bradley.

Throughout the week, the students learned ways to handle cyberbullying, build self-confidence, project a positive self-identity and more.

“Some may have not had the chance to actually dance, speak publicly or display their talents before the camp. Hopefully, it helped someone,” said Regina White, Cooper’s aide and aunt.

While at camp each day, the elementary-, middle- and high-school students had the opportunity to attend leadership classes and one elective.

“I think the dance program is a way to meet new people, have fun, and learn things that you may not have known. I think it’s a way to express yourself in many different ways, and discover different things about yourself. I look forward to participating next year,” said Olivia King, camp participant and sixth-grader.

Cooper and her team will continue to provide platforms in which students can express themselves and learn the arts throughout the year. She can be reached at mbradley_47@yahoo.com.

— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com.

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