This Baltimore school helps girls step up for college

2 months ago
"Step," a new documentary, follows students from the Baltimore Leadership School for Girls, an institution with the primary goal of 100 percent college ...

English subtitle

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: A new documentary captures
the power of art to change lives.
"Step" follows students from the Baltimore
Leadership School for Young Women, or BLSYW.
It's a middle and high school.
As an art form, step started in Africa and
became popular in the United States as it
was adopted and transformed by members of
predominantly African-American fraternities
and sororities.
BLSYW has one primary goal for its students:
100 percent college acceptance.
But you will see, that wasn't the only success.
Have a look.
PAULA DOFAT, Director of College Counseling,
Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women:
Step is not dance.
Dancing or step dancing or a dance number?
No, it's step.
BLESSIN GIRALDO, Student: Step is life because
it taught me a lot about myself.
PAULA DOFAT: Making good use of your body.
Your body makes the percussion.
Clapping, stomping, military movement, the
spoken word, gymnastics, cheerleading, making
literally music with your bodies.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: That was the first place
where I could practice my natural abilities,
being a leader, teaching discipline, learning
how to be disciplined.
I'm Blessin Giraldo.
I'm the captain of the BLSYW step team, also
the founder.
PAULA DOFAT: I was their first step team adviser,
not their coach, but their adviser.
My name is Paula Dofat.
I'm the director of college counseling for
the Baltimore Leadership School for Young
GARI MCINTYRE, Coach: I was hired just to
coach the ladies.
My hidden agenda was to mentor them.
My name is Gari McIntyre, also known as Coach
BLESSIN GIRALDO: She wanted us to use our
voice, black women, not only a minority, but
from an urban community like Baltimore.
PAULA DOFAT: I want to have three main principles
that we follow, solidarity, discipline and
STUDENT: I like the step because it's empowering.
STUDENT: It's a form of art that brings us
all together.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: Believing in someone plays
a huge part of confidence and performance
and the outcome of the common goal, which
for us is to go to college.
PAULA DOFAT: I was put on earth to do this
kind of work, to be a college counselor, to
help students to get from point A to point
B on their success plan.
GARI MCINTYRE: I have a purpose.
And no matter what you're doing, when people
show your appreciation, you feel refueled
and you feel like your purpose has been met.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: It kind of makes me really
emotional, because I don't know where I would
be without my school.
And I feel like I was put in this predicament.
I would consider myself one of the lucky ones
from our city.
GARI MCINTYRE: I think without the structure
of BLSYW, step, and Paula Dofat, a lot of
these girls would be lost, as I was when I
graduated high school.
PAULA DOFAT: From the time they come in, in
sixth grade, they're taught about self-advocacy,
they're taught about the support of their
sisters, they're taught about taking responsibility
for their actions.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: I wouldn't blame anyone else
but myself, but it was somebody that I had
to battle with every day to not be defeated,
not having the best amount of support in my
immediate environment, which wasn't at BLSYW,
or maybe not having food in our refrigerator,
or not having the lights.
GARI MCINTYRE: Step, I truly think, is what
gave them the discipline, what gives them
the drive to keep on going academically, because
you can't be on the step team if your grades
are not right.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: Being a subject of a documentary,
signing up for that, it wasn't easy.
It was really hard.
You want to inspire, but, in order to do that,
you have to be honest.
And that's how you lead with integrity.
PAULA DOFAT: Most people, the first thing
they -- the word that comes to mind when they
have seen the film and their reaction is that
it's inspiring, not just their struggles,
but how they triumph over their struggles.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: It's not brave if you're
not afraid.
There were moments when I felt like I did
want to cut the camera off.
I knew that that moment was probably a moment
of where I might have felt embarrassed or
had to take a double-take of if I wanted somebody
to see this.
PAULA DOFAT: We are absolutely exceptional,
but I don't think we are the exception.
We did it in year two, class of 2017, 100
percent college acceptance, and we took it
up one notch.
Ten percent of that graduating class are on
full-ride scholarships.
BLESSIN GIRALDO: The day the documentary premiered
in Baltimore, there was no murders that day,
August 4.
And, to me, I felt like that was a symbol
of how much this movie can unite people and
change people's perceptions of Baltimore.