Thursday, January 30, 2014


As I share about my early teen years, I have used photos from middle school. If you see yourself in any of the photos and want it removed, please let me know and I will respect your wishes. I don't want anyone upset or offended because their photo is here. Perhaps many will say, "Angie, I would never have shared that." But, I'm older now and believe it's time to share. My desire, as I share my story, is to show something that is wrong, but how God can use something like dance to turn our darkest moments in life into joy! Love to you all.

By Angeline M Duran Santiago

Graduation, P.S.250, Grade 5
Growing up, I believed life was perfect although we lacked in material possessions. I didn't have much, but I learned to be confident and thankful I was loved. My days in PS250 were very happy. It had been a safe, nurturing environment that had not prepared me for what was to come. I truly believed life was great up until middle school.

The day I began middle school, my world was in for a big turn around. I never would have imagined what was coming. I continued in a gifted class in middle school, but barely new any of the kids. I was alone and hoped to make new friends.

It didn't take long for me to realize life had changed. I was in 6th grade and I remember 8th grade students, as a group, pushing their way towards me and letting me know they didn't like me. Soon afterwards, life became a nightmare and no one could stop it. I fought daily but in reality I think it was more like getting my butt kicked, daily. I hated school and wished night time would silently take me to heaven as I slept. 

Groups of girls and boys tormented me in the hallway, lunchroom and after school. Almost daily, they followed me home. They were friends of someone in my old school. She had told them she disliked me and this made them feel it was their duty to make my life miserable. No matter how well I thought I could defend myself, there was no way to defend yourself against large groups of teens punching and kicking at you, including guys.

The dean said he couldn't help, the police wouldn't get involved unless I was hospitalized or killed, and my family had run out of answers. I became sick, literally sick with the knowledge that I was hated for no reason. The threat came that I was going to have my face cut up and my parents got involved, showing up the school to do what the school would not. They protected me when the school failed. Yes, the school didn't help just looked the other way. Seeing my desperation and nose dive into depression, my mom began the fight with the school district to change me to a new school. Back then if you didn't live in the zone, the answer was no. After a long battle, she won and I was sent to start in a new school at JHS126 in Greenpoint. 

After what I had gone through, my smile was gone. My attitude was to be ready to fight or (as funny as this is) run if I had to. I wondered if the same things would happen here, but this is where I believe "divine intervention" took over. I was feeling depressed, hating school (which I had always loved), and still affected by the past year.

One day, a day that was a challenge, there was a special program in the school. Dance groups came out and performed. But the highlight were the cheerleaders. Loving dance and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, back then, my heart raced. Sure, I had been a cheerleader most of my life for my dad's baseball team, but this was different. It was magical. 

JHS 126 John Ericsson Cheerleaders
To be a part of the magic I would not only have to able to dance, but have great grades. Grades? Me, the once honor student now big deuce. Me, the once gifted student now a failure, messed up and always watching her back. Still, I had a decision to make. That day I went home and after sharing with my mom what I had seen, I went to my room and opened a bible I had started to like reading. I had started to read in Matthew. 

It said, that if we ask, we shall receive. I read a lot, didn't understand it much, but something inside me said, "Believe." I am sure that was the first time I ever prayed and believed it with all my heart. "Lord, I feel unworthy to ask You this, but I am tired of my life, I'm tired of feeling worthless. I feel so good when I dance, Lord. Grant me this one thing."

That year, my first year in John Ericsson, my grades went back to normal, making me part of Arista. This gave me the confidence to try out for the squad and I made it! I loved every moment of being a cheerleader at JHS126. Cheerleading and dancing saved my life! The sadness from the year before was soon replaced with songs and dance steps that freed me to be the teen I was supposed to be.
 My last year there, I was Co-Captain of the squad and when I graduated, I auditioned and made it to the final cut of a group of dancing cheerleaders with the same teachers. Many doors opened for me to dance in my youth and that confidence came from being part of an amazing team! 

You may say, Angie, ridiculous! Dance and being a cheerleader can't save your life! My reply is, "Yes it can and it did!" I know that if there had not been anything to pull me away from my sadness, the hurt,the fears and the darkness I had experienced that past year, I had quit school and continued quiet and sad. 

Being a cheerleader gave me a purpose to go to school and do my best. It was not an overnight miracle, but I believe my healing from sadness, feeling worthless, alone and fearful during my teen years, came through music, making friends that shared my same passion, and dancing with all my heart and all my strength. Being bullied is a horrible thing. It doesn't go away easily and it takes a lot of work to overcome the sadness that tries to stay. I am thankful for the people God put in my path to see something in me worth investing in. 

My Mom, Maria
I am thankful for a mom that didn't take NO for an answer but fought for me to start life over in a new school. She gave me the opportunity to do what she taught me to love, dance my heart away! My mom was a powerful tool in helping me dance during my teen years and I will always be grateful for her sacrifice and dedication.

Mr. K
I will always be thankful and grateful to Mr. Mel Kamenshine for giving me the opportunity to flourish and live out my dream. He gave me a purpose and reason to get up extra early to practice. He made sure the team worked hard to keep grades up. Mr. K encouraged, motivated and inspired us to leave it all on the dance floor and we did. He was an amazing Coach, Teacher and Friend. He found amazing places for us to perform, like performing during half time at a basketball game where the 76ers played, Madison Square Garden and so many other great places. Thank you, Mr. K. You will never know how my life was changed.

Years later, I would remember my prayer as a child. I'd make a decision to not only live my life for the God who guided my feet in the dance, but to one day dance to the music of heaven. When I talk about being healed, it's because I know what it's like to be broken. God took care of me and gave me a reason to be joyful.

 To all who gave me wings to dance, you really gave me a reason to hope and live again! Love you all!



By Angeline M Duran Santiago  The storm rages on and the winds buffet the lands in violent twirls. Some say it is the season for hur...