In 2015, Misty Copeland travelled to Kigali, Rwanda with MindLeaps, an international NGO that uses dance to help at-risk youth develop life skills. Up until that point, the program had only been available to boys; Copeland's visit launched MindLeaps' Girls Program. Now, three years later, Copeland's just back from another trip week-long to Kigali.
MindLeaps does more than just teach dance. The organization uses free classes to draw vulnerable youth, many of whom are orphaned and living on the street, to safe spaces within urban slums. Once they're regularly attending dance classes, children are enrolled in programs in digital literacy, nutrition support, sanitation services, sexual and reproductive health, and academic catch-up classes. Eventually, the participants go on to boarding schools or to work-study positions, breaking the poverty cycle. "When you learn about the [Rwandan] genocide, you see how strong people had to be to survive. When you look at these kids today, you can see their resilience. Those are themes of my life too—to overcome all odds to succeed," Copeland told Pointe via email. Copeland's work with MindLeaps expands behind her visits to Rwanda; through her ongoing work with their International Artists Fund she works to represent the organization in the U.S. In 2015, she also founded a scholarship to send a promising student, Ali, to boarding school.