Students Protest Planned End of Dance Program at Hialeah Gardens School

They came with signs and brought their parents. Current and former students at Hialeah Gardens High School shouted their messages into morning traffic.

They said they don’t want the dance program going anywhere.

“Dance is what we live for, it’s what we care about,” said junior Kelma Escalona. “And it’s what gets me in the morning to come here to school to keep my grades up.”

Dance coach Adriana Rizzo started the program 14 years ago by herself.

It’s my passion… I don’t teach for the money,” she told NBC 6 last week. “I don’t think any teacher really teaches for the money. We teach because we love what we do and we want to share that passion and love with our students.”

Rizzo didn’t attend Tuesday’s event, but her students said the protest was for her.

“We’re not only here to save this program. We’re here to save Rizzo and the things that she’s done for us,” said student Shanell Lopez.

School district leaders said the award-winning program is being cut because of low enrollment. But Rizzo said she has 137 students enrolled this year and most want to take the class again next year.

“It’s not just dancing. You’re learning how to be organized, how to be prepared, how to get out of your shell… set a goal, accomplish it,” she said. “You know, a lot of these kids are taking my class for the first time, and maybe they weren’t so comfortable dancing or like, even being in the uniform, or being on stage and they all came out of their shell, they made friendships in my class.”

Senior Isis Inarga said she was inspired by the program to move from northern Spain just to attend the class.

“It was like the best decision of my life. Like coming here has shown me and has taught me many things in only two years,” she said.

Students and graduates said they will continue to fight for the program no matter what.