Juvenile crime and violence is a serious problem in our community. Children who come from less fortunate circumstances tend to be more vulnerable to negative influences and can be at-risk of getting involved in illegal crime activities and/or have problems in school. Studies have shown that performing arts activities are a positive influence on youth and can effectively be used as an intervention method to improve academic performance in school, reduce juvenile delinquency and crime. As a female officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department for 27 years, Ms. Diane Rogers decided to use her knowledge of crime prevention, love for all children, and love of cultural expression to implement this grassroots artistic program initially with no funding. In 1982, Ms. Rogers created “Omotayo Rite of Passage”, an innovative African dance program designed to improve and maintain at-risk youth’s sense of pride, while enhancing the development of their artistic skills and talents. The program utilizes dance, music, folklore, and history as a medium to nourish the creativity of children and stimulate academic success.
Presently, there are 35 children ages, 4-18 who attend the weekly dance lessons. Youth receive a training regimen and discipline that reinforces a healthy and safe lifestyle. During the past 30 years, the dance troupe has performed throughout Fort Wayne at numerous schools, community centers, churches, and cultural events. The organization has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of children and families as a volunteer grassroots artistic program.
In 2004, 16 children represented the State of Indiana in Washington, DC for one-week at the “Very Special Arts” (VSA) conference. Additionally,the dance troupe has received numerous awards and recognition. Since the program has a positive reputation in Fort Wayne, many children hear about how to participate through word of mouth. So, classes are always at full capacity. In 2005, “Omotayo Rite of Passage” received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status in order to expand the cultural learning experiences of youth in Fort Wayne.