By day Ebony Haynes, 27, is the program coordinator of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, working specifically in girls leadership programming. By night Haynes is the CEO of her own program, called Double Dutch to Dreams.
“I do the same exact thing that I do for the Boys & Girls Club,” Haynes laughed, “just on a larger scale.”
Haynes offers the program to schools and organizations that work with girls. She recently signed a contract with the Milwaukee Academy, a residential behavioral and mental health facility for girls, to provide a nine-week Double Dutch to Dreams program. The program teaches building self-esteem, healthy activity and life skills to 22 girls ages 13 to 18.
The director of the Milwaukee Academy, Dana Dorn, serves on the Human Trafficking of Greater Milwaukee Task Force with Haynes.
“Not only is it really important for our girls to have therapeutic types of interventions here, (but) they also need to experience just being regular kids,” Dorn said. “Ebony’s group sounded really, really great to give those girls that kind of experience.”
Dorn noted that the program gives girls who have exhibited dangerous or criminal behaviors exposure to Haynes, a community member who models leadership and self-esteem.
Haynes has always been involved in her community. She said the double-dutch program just landed in her lap. “I was outside jumping double-dutch and made a 15-second Instagram video of me jumping,” Haynes said.
Her goal was to encourage young people to go outside and jump double-dutch instead of twerking. Twerking is a provocative form of dancing popular in music videos.
The video of Haynes jumping double-dutch went “Facebook viral,” she said. It has been shared more than 80,000 times.
Since Haynes posted the video, others have posted their own double-dutch videos along with questions such as, “What happened to double-dutch?” “What happened to playing outside?” and “What happened to kids being kids?”
Haynes said she did not expect the reaction, but found a way to capitalize on it.
Last November, Haynes was invited to bring Double Dutch to Dreams to Capitol West Academy for its second annual all-girls lock-in.
Abigail Reese-Kelley, guidance counselor and alumni coordinator at Capitol West, met Haynes at church and thought the lock-in would be a good opportunity for Haynes to work with the 30 girls who attended.
Girls could opt to play board games, participate in other group activities and learn how to jump double-dutch. “A lot of the girls had never been exposed to double-dutch because they don’t play outside,” Reese-Kelley said. “They loved it.”
She added, “We’re trying to get them to not always be on their phones or on the computers, but to actually go outside and play and exercise and enjoy one another.”
Double Dutch to Dreams fills a gap, Reese-Kelly noted, by providing positive opportunities for young African-American women to “learn about themselves to know their worth.”
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