Our MissionRecognizing that the arts have a unique power to engage and inspire children, the mission of Kids Excel El Paso (KEEP) is to use its distinct dance programs to help children develop discipline, a standard of excellence, and self-confidence that will positively impact their education and all aspects of their lives – one dance step at a time!
Partner Schools in 2021-2022
Students Participating in 2021-2022
What We Do
Our mission as an organization and the entirety of our programming is devoted to positively impacting the development of young students through an exciting and unique arts education model. The children at the schools we serve average 89% Minority, 63% Economically Disadvantaged, 55% At-Risk, and 43% Limited English Proficient. As a consequence of their socio-economic demographics, many of our students are marginalized in terms of societal expectations, extra-curricular opportunities, and support, all of which can lead to diminished self-esteem and scholastic underachievement. Kids Excel programming aims to enhance the educational experience of these children by providing students with access to high-quality arts instruction.
Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, we will conduct an average of 57 classes per week, meeting during the school day as part of the curriculum. A Teaching Artist and Musician who have been extensively trained in the NDI methodology teach each class. Students participating in KEEP’s programming experience a fast-paced, challenging, inclusive and fun approach to learning dance technique and the meaning of excellence.
KEEP’s Arts Education Outreach Program is conducted on the campus of each of its 24 partner schools. Because in-school classes are held for the entire fourth grade level as part of the school day, children who might not have the resources to participate in extra-curricular arts activities have the opportunity to expand their horizons and experience quality dance and music education.
Providing Quality Arts Education
Over the last 17 years, KEEP has grown to meet the demand for its programming and will serve more than 1,800 children in 24 El Paso schools via in-school instruction over the course of the 2021-2022 school year. Since inception, we have served 33,000 children, 1,250 classroom teachers, and more than 375,000 audience
Using the award-winning National Dance Institute (NDI) teaching techniques created 45 years ago by former New York City Ballet principal dancer and MacArthur Fellow, Jacques d’Amboise, our energetic and dynamic curriculum teaches children the fundamental values of determination, discipline, and excellence. Each week, in gymnasiums and cafeterias throughout El Paso, thousands of lives are transformed through the magic of music and dance.
All Kids Excel in-school programs are free to children and their families.
KEEP's pedogogy encourages children to work hard in everything they do and experience the benefits of their hard work in return. Students learn discipline that allows them to focus which carries into their everyday lives.
Never Give Up
Students learn that mistakes are a normal part of the learning process. KEEP encourages success through repetative instruction and individual excellence.
Each student learns that their personal best differs from their classmates. Students learn to support each other and create a team, to work hard while having fun, and to have confidence to try new things.
- Our Story
- Program Expansion
- Partner Schools
- Our Board
- Our Staff
- Friends & Partners
- Information For Funders
Kids Excel was founded in 2004 by native El Pasoan and long-time friend of Jacques d’Amboise, Stephen L. Feinberg. In 1976, Mr. d’Amboise, a former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, founded the National Dance Institute in Harlem, New York. The project was an amazing success and slowly spread to communities across the country and, eventually, around the world.
Realizing that government funding for arts in public school was continually decreasing, Mr. Feinberg was determined to address the “arts opportunity gap” and provide high-quality arts education for at-risk children in his hometown of El Paso. Feinberg provided the seed money for the El Paso Dance Institute (as it was initially called) to provide one year of programming to three El Paso schools. The program quickly won support from arts professionals and leaders in the business community and a group soon convened to prepare the institute’s non-profit status.
Over the course of the first year, the program was overseen by Gemtria St. Clair who was then serving as Managing Director of the National Dance Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Migrating periodically to El Paso, Gemtria helped bring together a board of directors and train and hire teaching artists and musicians. The following year, she and her husband, Rod Linguri, who would serve as Music Director for KEEP, moved to El Paso to run the program full-time. Gemtria and Rod managed Kids Excel until 2013, enjoying amazing success and unprecedented program growth. When they left El Paso in 2013, Kids Excel was serving nearly 3,000 children in 30 schools.
Since that time, Kids Excel has endured, touching the lives of more than 30,000 children in El Paso. Today, we maintain a waiting list of schools in our partner districts and constantly field inquiries from charter schools and other independent educational institutions. It is our hope and vision to one day be able to serve every child in El Paso County.
As a proud Associate of National Dance Institute (ANDI), Kids Excel is part of a global movement, working each day to make arts education a reality for all children.
For the 2021-2022 school year, KEEP has maintained its curriculum in 24 schools, and provided after-school programming on 3 campuses in EPISD, thereby serving a total of 27 schools, 1,800 students, 96 classroom teachers, and approximate 28,000 audience members.
If you are interested in becoming a Kids Excel partner school, the first thing you must do is secure a spot on the waiting list in your district. To be added to the list, please ask the Principal or other school administrator/representative to contact the main office of your district. For specific contact information please visit:
You can also contact Barbara Bustamante, Associate Director/Kids Excel, at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or (915)351-6999
Kids Excel classes are conducted on the campus of each of our 24 partner schools. Because in-school classes are held for the entire fourth grade level as part of the school day, children who might not have the resources to participate in extra-curricular arts activities have the opportunity to expand their horizons and experience quality dance and music education. All Kids Excel in-school programs are free to children and their families.
2021-2022 Partner Schools
El Paso Independent School District
Canutillo Independent School District
Ysleta Independent School District
·La Fe Preparatory School
Stephen Feinberg, Founding Chair
Don Margo, Chair
Ruben Hernandez, Vice Chair
JP Morgan Chase
Agustin Montes, Treasurer
First National 1870
Elena Tejeda, Secretary
The Hospital of Providence
Leonard Goodman III
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch
Peter Properties, Inc.
Dee Dee Spier
Boys and Girls Clubs of El Paso
Kemp Smith LLP
Jack Cardwell, Honorary Member
Ruben Guerra, Honorary Member
Guerra Investment Advisors
Cita Sanders, Honorary Member
Courtney Elam, Executive/Artistic Director
Barbara Bustamante, Associate Director
David Sierra, Business Manager
Karla Rangel, Graphic Design/Administrative Assistant
Ismar Melchor, Music Director
Hector Rodriguez, Associate Music Director
Ana Nieto, Special Teams Coordinator/Teaching Artist
Freddie Edwards, Special Teams Associate/Teaching Artist
Barbara Bernal, Teaching Artist
Faith Brashear, Apprentice
Noe Cardenas, Musician
Brenda Delgado, Teaching Artist
Nancy Garcia, Apprentice
Trisha Holmes, Teaching Artist
Abraham Lerma, Musician
Allison Licon, Teaching Artist
Josh Lopez, Musician
Moises Solorozano, Musician
Omaira Minjarez, Teaching Artist
Laura Scally, Teaching Artist
Simone Velazquez, Teaching Artist
Our Amazing Friends
Stephen Feinberg and Susan Foote
Peggy and Andy Feinberg
Hunt Family Foundation
Wilma D. Moleen Foundation
Paso Del Norte Foundation
United Way of El Paso County
$10,000 to $19,999
City of El Paso Museums & Cultural Affairs Dept.
Cesle & Mamie Dues Foundation
Susan & Ruben Guerra
Paso del Norte Health Foundation
Judy and Kirk Robison
$5,000 to $9,999
J.B. Margaret Blaugrund Foundation
Bodman Family Foundation
Jan and Jack Chapman
El Paso Electric Company
Elizabeth and Don Margo
Sanders Family Foundation
Shiloff Family Foundation
Elena and Nicholas Tejeda
Texas Commission on the Arts
$1,000 to $4,999
El Paso Community Foundation
Michelle and Robert Feuille
Beth and Harold Hahn
Nancy Laster and Ross Dahman
Tania and Scott Schwartz
Dee Dee and Jeff Spier
J. Edward & Helen M.C. Stern Foundation
$500 to $999
Ginger and Rick Francis
Cecilia and Lance Levine
LMC Design Group
Monica and Keith Mahar
Up to $499
Nicole and Mark Ahmann
Bank of America
Mary Fred Cobb
The Blowe Family
Amanda and Tyler Daniels
Kirsten and Greg DiDonna
Misty and Brett Duke
Martha and Cliff Eisenberg
Jody and Asher Feinberg
Juana and Francisco Fernandez
Valerie Dahill Gluck
Mona and Howard Goldberg
Susie and Eddie Goldman
Melinda and Arturo Gutierrez
Kay and Harris Hatfield
Ruth and Jeff Katz
Kendra Scott LLC
Elaine and Robert Krasne
Lynette and Agustin Montes
Network for Good
Caroline and Chad North
Lorry and Johnny Rogers
Sarah and Charles Spencer
Ann and William Spier
Anne and Jimmy Spier
Jacqueline and Curtis Spier
Kristin and Jason Spier
Valley of the Sun United Way
Helen and David Yancey
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility
At Kids Excel, we are committed to creating an environment that honors the humanity of all people. We believe that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) are fundamental principles that guide our work in the arts, and that the arts enable us to do our jobs best only when these values are their foundation. Placing DEIA at the center of our engagement with children, families, schools, artists, and other communities is essential to the vitality and integrity of our work and to the achievement of our core mission.
The KEEP staff and the children we serve are our most valuable assets. The collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities and talent of our student dancers and our employees is significant part of our culture and our achievements.
We embrace and encourage differences in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make our employees and participants unique.
Kids Excel’s diversity initiatives are applicable—but not limited—to the implementation of our in-school programs, as well as our practices and policies on recruitment and selection; compensation and benefits; professional development and training; promotions; transfers; social and recreational programs; layoffs; terminations; and the ongoing development of a work environment built on the premise of gender and diversity equity that encourages and enforces:
- Respectful communication and cooperation between all employees and partner schools.
- Teamwork and employee participation, permitting the representation of all groups and perspectives.
- Work/life balance through flexible work schedules to accommodate employees’ varying needs.
- Board and employee involvement in the communities we serve to promote a greater understanding and respect for the diversity.
All Kids Excel employees and program participants have a responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect at all times. All employees are expected to exhibit conduct that reflects inclusion during work, at work functions on or off the work site, and at all other company- sponsored and participative events. All employees are also required to attend diversity awareness trainings to enhance their knowledge to fulfill this responsibility.