The Aspire Project provides affordable access to dance programs and fitness classes for all ages, as well as a youth-oriented academic lab. The organization strives to enable families to believe that they can become whatever they aspire to be.
At The Aspire Project, no student is turned away. Our programs aim to create positive experiences that promote the physical health, social well-being and academic success of North Portland youth. All youth are given the opportunity to dance regardless of their income, geographic location, race/ethnicity, gender, ability/disability, religion, sexual orientation or health. Through our dance programs and performances, we aim to bring students together to develop a connection to their communities and act as an entry point to serve their families.
Founded in 2009 by Susan and Dan Darrow, their goal was to provide affordable dance classes for students who are interested in the arts but could not afford the opportunity. As a former single, low-income mother, Susan experienced the difficulties of providing arts and physical education classes for her children. Through the support of her Portland community, Susan was able to move out of poverty and into a thriving, successful life. Susan and Dan created The Aspire Project to honor God by serving others and create opportunities they did not have.
The Aspire Project began with one instructor teaching four ballet classes a week for 1st-4th graders in historically underserved schools, Peninsula, Cesar Chavez, Earl Boyles and Humboldt Schools. In 2010, The Aspire Project added more classes, including Tap, and began subleasing weekend studio space from Ethos Music, Inc.
In 2015, The Aspire Project outgrew the Ethos studio space and chose to relocate to downtown St Johns North Portland, Oregon, establishing their permanent studio home. After an extensive remodel of the former Salvation Army space, The Aspire Project opened their doors in the Fall and in addition to their youth classes, began offering dance and fitness classes for adults and seniors, summer camps, and math tutoring and computer programming classes. Currently, the studio program offers 55 dance and movement classes per week for students ages 3 to 83 years old and the outreach program teaches in five North Portland schools.
The Aspire Project partners with Pacific University Psychology Department to evaluate the impact their dance programs had on their students. After each program session, the results have demonstrated that students have higher self-confidence and body image, enhanced teamwork and collaboration skills, and better physical health and exercise practices. In 2018, The Aspire Project continues to partner with Pacific University to assess and ensure that their programs are positively impacting their students.
Having served over 4,000 students since 2009, The Aspire Project serves over 380 students per term through their studio and outreach program. The Aspire Project is committed to reaching students with a quality arts program and giving everyone the chance to dance!