Most Saturdays during the school year, 4-year-old Gemma Phipps heads to the Southside Community Center with her mom to practice her arabesques, her plies – and her reading skills.
Phipps is one of 32 children participating in Ballet and Books, a program organized by Talia Bailes ’20, who’s studying global and public health sciences in the College of Human Ecology. Bailes started the program, now in its third year, to boost literacy among children from pre-K through third grade.
Bailes danced and taught during high school, and then spent a year after high school teaching young students in Ecuador. She came back interested in child development and literacy, so she worked in a pediatrician’s lab in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, where she learned more about how literacy, race, poverty and other factors affected children’s health.
“I really believe in community engagement so when I came to Cornell, I was looking for ways to get involved and I started working with Southside,” she said. “I wondered how I could be an agent of change and combine the development of children’s minds with dance.”