Maria Mendoza



Two youngsters working on oil paintings

Refugee youth painting for World Refugee Day. Photo by Maria Mendoza

Dance is something that’s engrained in my body, mind and soul. I wake upand go to sleep knowing dance is within me. It is there when I walk, drive, sit, get up, hug, and wave. It is the minimal movements and grand gestures. I had the privilege of attending and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas. In that space I learned to embrace my identity and discover my capabilities. There was a constant push to be anything but ordinary. Dance has inspired me to find different ways of tackling and handling issues. It has become an organic medium of communication. It has allowed me to introduce the human connection in places where it is often omitted or neglected.

Now, I’m a youth mentor coordinator for Refugee Services of Texas in Dallas. Dance and the arts in general have inspired me to seek and initiate connections between the refugee youth population and the arts community. I see potential for wonderful discussions and collaboration between these two populations. I believe it can reinvigorate the sense of humanity and community in the society. I dream of associations, organizations, companies and individuals emerging from the refugee youth that have gained empowerment and encouragement from the arts. I want to see peacemakers and advocates who use their art as a powerful medium to express their plights and grievances.

Personally, the arts have emphasized the power of collaboration. Collaboration is the key to accomplishment. The arts have allowed me to escape the mundane and always seek the beauty. They have given me strength when everything seems to shatter. They have helped me stay optimistic about the state of the world. As long as there are creative individuals in this world, there’s hope. They have persuaded me to awaken the minds and hearts of future artists. Dallas continues to display the importance of arts in a community. There has been an increase in grass root projects and nonprofit organizations that have helped the vulnerable populations of Dallas and empowered them to advocate for their people and needs. It has given the vulnerable an alternative way of dealing with violence, poverty, and alienation. I’m thankful for being in a position where I can facilitate connections. I look forward to seeing how both of my passions come together. I’m filling the perceived empty space and gently shaking the world.