'I Will Greet This Day With Love In My Heart': AileyCamp Miami Gets Ready For Season Finale

Jul 31, 2017

Kristina Lahoud, 14, loves to dance. 

"She knows to pull up her Youtube on her tablet, and put on her favorite song. She'll usually go in the bathroom," said Nicola Budham, Kristina's mother. "She likes to go in there and dance and look at herself in the mirror." 

Kristina Lahoud and her buddy Brianna Rondon start off their dance together.
Credit Holly Pretsky / WLRN

Kristina is the first camper with Down syndrome to attend AileyCamp Miami, where she's been able to take her performances out of the bathroom and into the dance studio. 

"I'm a great dancer," she said.

It's a free, six-week program for underserved middle schoolers at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. 

"Although dance is a focal point, personal development is really the foundation of the program,"said Jairo Ontiveros, director for education and community engagement at the Arsht Center.

He says the program offers curriculum on conflict resolution, health and peer pressure, among other topics. Campers are also asked to journal every day.

"This program strives to make sure that children during their formative years, 11-14, are really given a safe place to stretch their minds and their bodies," said Ontiveros.

"She's challenged the other campers with how much she works and how hard she works." - Jairo Ontiveros.

There are about 100 campers in the program from all over Miami-Dade County, and they're provided with transportation, breakfast, lunch, costumes and supplies for a summer in the arts. In order to accommodate Kristina's needs, the camp has added two extra staff with specialized training.

Kristina can take longer to learn the choreography, but she has taught the other kids a lot, according to Ontiveros.

"She's challenged the other campers because they see how much she works and how hard she works," he said. 

At the beginning and end of the day, the campers recite an affirmation. It begins, "I will greet this day with love in my heart." It ends, "I will not use the word 'can't' to define my possibilities."

AileyCamp Miami's final performance will take place Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Arsht Center. It's free, and tickets are available online