As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Jack Petchey Foundation, we are highlighting exceptional cases of those who have participated in our programmes. On the 25th of every month throughout 2024 we will share one of those with you.
To kick it off, we have Riana. Riana is part of JPF’s Board of Trustees and was involved in Step into Dance. Come back each month to read about another case study. If you have a similar story to share, get in contact with PR@jackpetchey.org.uk
Tell us a little about yourself and how you initially got involved with the Jack Petchey Foundation (JPF) and Step into Dance (SiD)?
I’m Riana, I’m 24 years old, and I am a Pharmacist. At the moment, I work at Basildon Hospital in Essex, and I am a Youth Trustee of the Jack Petchey Foundation.
It was my first time taking part in the SiD programme in school. I was 13 years old, in year 9 and I was just chosen to be on the programme. I didn’t know what SiD or JPF was at the time, but I knew this programme was about dance, so I was sold. I’d been doing dance outside of school, so this was a really great opportunity to do more dancing.
After taking part I was awarded the Jack Petchey Achievement Award for my “outstanding achievement in dance”. That was in 2013.
1. And how did this involvement with the programmes progress as you got older?
I took part on the programme for a second time about two years later. This time I had a bit more of a leadership role, being one of the older ones and having been involved in the programme before. Later, I went on to run the SiD programme from the school side of things. The teacher who ran the programme when I was at my previous school went on maternity leave and asked me personally to run the programme in their absence.
2. Tell us about your position with the Jack Petchey Foundation and how this came about?
I started off as a 3x Achievement Award winner and SiD participant before going on to complete the JPF Achiever Network programme. I finished that in 2015. At the time, JPF did not have any other ways for young people to stay involved with their work, so a group of young people proposed the Youth Consultation Panel to increase the impact of youth voice at JPF. The idea was for the panel to mirror the board and represent the young people that JPF serve. From that, we also proposed for there to be a youth trustee to create a direct link between the panel and the Board of Trustees. I have been privileged to create that path but also walk on it myself.
Years later I became a Youth Trustee at JPF, this was in February 2023. This involves overseeing the running of the Foundation, and I have a particular interest in making sure that the work we do benefits young people in the way that they need it to. This means we are constantly working to make sure our programmes are relevant and fit for purpose. I also have the pleasure of looking after the Step into Dance programme, so it is a full-circle moment for me. I am the second person to have this role at the Foundation, and it was myself and a few other young people who came up with the idea of having one, so it is a true honour to hold this position. JPF has been focusing heavily on youth voice over the past few years, and we have now built what I like to call a ‘ladder of progression’.
3. What did you enjoy most about being a Step into Dance student, and why this programme?
I was in a theatre school so I was training in singing, dancing and acting and I had some great opportunities doing that. However, in the SiD programme, I was surrounded by more people who were like me in terms of age and cultural background, and it was in school time.
Having had the experience from outside of school in a professional context, I could see that the SiD programme was parallel with that. So, the same treatment I was getting outside of school, I was getting inside school. For example, the commitment to rehearsals every week and working towards a performance that was going to be shared with others in a dance-shared environment. We had a sort of audition process, working towards a big performance like Step Live and the things that went into that i.e. the costumes, the time, extra rehearsals etc. To have that professional experience of what it is like to be a professional dancer, working towards something and working with professional dancers and teachers, getting that in school is quite an amazing thing to say.
4. What were the main skills you gained through participating in the SiD and the JPF programme? And have you used these in other aspects of your life?
I’ve gained so much confidence through them. I’m the kind of person that when I’m dancing, I’m focusing on that and that only. When I am on stage, I don’t have the fear that I would normally have in life. I’ve been able to carry that through my life.
I’ve always been a confident person, but I lost that at some point…I went through a lot of personal things. My dad passed away when I was seven, and I went mute and stopped writing, so I was not communicating or expressing myself in any way at all. My mum put me into dance classes at that point, and it worked; it was the only thing that worked. Slowly but surely, I got back to speaking and writing, and that was a big source of getting back to ‘me’ and getting my mojo back. JPF and SiD gave me a new platform to do that.
Discipline is a massive thing as well…being on time and being organised.
I’ve had the experience of being a captain and leading SiD, or being in charge of a session, and it’s helped me so much. Recently, at work, I had a presentation that I had to do in front of doctors. I was able to speak to them with assertiveness because I prepared for it the same way I would have prepared for teaching dance classes. That made me feel confident and ready to speak to them and deliver my presentation.
5. How have the skills you’ve gained through dance/Step into Dance classes helped with your current role with JPF?
Step into Dance gave me the opportunity to come out of my shell and demonstrate the leadership qualities that I was afraid to show before. Dance is a great discipline that requires you to take responsibility for your role in a group, and it’s no different being on a board of trustees for such a high-profile charity. Lastly, Step into Dance taught me that I have the freedom and the platform to speak my mind and let my voice be heard. That comes in handy as a Trustee.
6. What achievements are you proudest of since taking part in a JPF programme?
I think the last year has been quite a good year for me. I graduated from University, I came out with a 1st, which I wasn’t really expecting and passed my driving test, which I was so worried about before passing because I realised I was going to be working in Essex and I live in London,
7. What’s the best bit of advice you could give to a young person?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. It’s a very scary thing to do, but it has always worked for me.
8. What do you plan to do next? Something you want to achieve?
I am currently doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Pharmacy Practice, so I would like to finish that and become a prescriber. I don’t know where that will take me, but it’ll mean that more doors will be open for me to progress in that field. I would love to share my passion for dance more and put myself out there, so I have recently started a new Instagram page (@dancelike.riri) where I will be sharing my content from classes and any projects that come up. It’s been a scary leap of faith, but after much encouragement from friends, I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it! I would love to be part of a dance group in the future and guest teach but I will see what opportunities come my way.
If you are interested in learning about Step into Dance click this link. Plus if you are a school or youth group use the link below to sign up for the 2023-2024 academic year and use the code BLUEMONDAY you will receive a 10% discount on their 12 or 20 hour package. Discount available until 31 January 2024. Use this link