When I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to help people. I felt a connection to the kids with special needs and all I wanted to do was help make their day a little better. Once I even cried in kindergarten because the kid with Down syndrome was sitting next to someone else at lunch. It was that serious to me.

People with special needs are, indeed, special people. Not because they have physical or mental limitations, but because they see the world in a different light than others do. That light could be overwhelming for them to experience every day, but it is beautiful. The way their minds work is beautiful.

As I grew older, I observed my cousin, who has special needs, riding horses as a means of therapy. It helped her mentally, emotionally, and physically. Since I knew how much dance affected me, as an able-bodied person, I pondered how dance could be used to help those with special needs. That's when the seed of my chosen career path was planted in my brain.

I didn't even know what Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) was, or that it even existed. I thought I would be doing something revolutionary, not knowing that other people already knew how dramatic the results can be when dance is used as therapy. At age 15, I found out that DMT was an actual graduate degree, with actual programs and an actual national association.

DMT, as defined by the American Dance Therapy Association, is "the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, and cognitive integration of the individual, for the purpose of improving health or well-being." This can be applied to anyone: those with depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, physical disabilities, the elderly. The list goes on and on.

Now, at age 18, I am a Kinesiology major. I chose this program as a stepping stone to the specific program of DMT, but I already know that's what I want to do. I have watched videos and read stories of children and adults alike who use DMT as a way to strengthen their bodies and emotional, mental, and social skills. I know dance can make a huge impact on someone, as it has made a huge impact on me.

Dance has helped me grow as an individual by allowing me to express myself, relieve stress, and meet new people. It has refined my physical skills, as well as social and emotional well-being. Dance is a passion of mine and I want to spread that to as many people as possible.

Using DMT, I want to create a supportive environment for the kids who need a little extra from those around them. I want to build a connection with them, to understand them, to help them understand themselves. Dance is an excellent way to release pent up stress, anger, or sadness. It can help with muscle limitations and motor skills. I want to teach them how they can use what dance gives them in the outside world.

People with special needs and disabilities are people, too. They might have emotional or mental issues and they might experience this life in a way we can't always understand, but they deserved to be loved and included. Dance is only one of the ways we can make those people see that and know that they are accepted, as well as help them feel comfortable within themselves. That will be my mission for the rest of my life.