Chapman University’s relationship with its community is on display at The Wooden Floor, a local nonprofit that transforms the lives of young people from low-income neighborhoods through the power of dance and access to higher education.
As children danced in the Santa Ana studio one afternoon, Chapman alumna Alix Portillo watched closely. Not so long ago, she was a student at The Wooden Floor before earning acceptance to Chapman and graduating with a degree in business in 2015. Today, she works in banking as a compliance specialist and serves on The Wooden Floor’s board of directors as the organization’s first alumni representative.
“When I was younger, I lacked a lot of confidence. Being around people who were supportive was a boost,” she said. “It felt like a second home.”
Portillo is one of many Chapman connections to The Wooden Floor. Jennifer Bassage Bonfil ’02 leads young students as a dance education and curriculum specialist. Other alumni serve in the administrative offices – Tianna Haradon ’01 as director of annual giving, and Derek Bruner ’08 as director of strategic initiatives. Chapman undergraduates work in the tutoring center, and graduate students from Crean College’s Marriage and Family Therapy program conduct a variety of workshops for the dancers and their families.
Since its founding in 1983, The Wooden Floor has enhanced the lives of more than 90,000 low-income boys and girls and their families. And since 2005, all seniors have graduated high school on time and immediately pursued higher education, some of them at Chapman.
All the relationships and collaborations with Chapman are no coincidence, said Dawn Reese, the organization’s CEO.
“There’s this thread that goes through all of the Chapman people we see here. It goes back to that global citizen idea that the University has about developing great citizens for the community,” Reese said. “They are an extension of our values here.”