Impoverished Teen Lives Cinderella Dream Going From Slums to Ballet Stage

Living in America, it's very easy for us to forget all of the opportunities we have and can also give our children. People are not so fortunate all over the world. Take 14-year-old Jessa Bolte, who is growing up in the Philippines. She lives in a slum town near Manila called Aroma -- and not for its pleasant scent. Rather, it's for the scent of garbage wafting in the air, since its extremely impoverished residents often make what little living they can picking through the garbage of surrounding areas looking for things they can recycle for a bit of cash.

Jessa would have grown up to be a garbage picker just like her parents, except that fate stepped in and gave her a chance to be something much more. She's now an up-and-coming ballerina who has traveled all over the world and is able to support her family.


Jessa's home in Aroma is described by the Associated Press as being the size of a "shipping container." Can you imagine? She and her family would spend their days picking through garbage looking for scrap metal. She had no reason to believe any of that would change. But it did.

She was plucked out of poverty by a prima ballerina named Lisa Majuca, who founded a local ballet school with scholarships to help the slum children. Jessa had a successful audition four years ago and has since danced in various productions, including Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Cinderella. Jessa says:

I can help my parents more with what I do now. I earn money from ballet.

While her fees for performances, ranging from $10 to $40, sound small, they go far in the slums of Manila, where most people barely scrape by on about $2 a day. Jessa's family includes her parents, six children, and two grandchildren.

One day, Jessa hopes to dance as a professional but she holds another dream -- to become a school teacher. She says Majurca told her "to persist despite the odds and to not let poverty hinder me."

It just goes to show you that what most kids need is a chance. It's wonderful that Jessa got one.

What do you think about Jessa?


Image via University of the Fraser Valley/Flickr

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