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Former dancer helps aspiring artists build career through scholarship program

NEW YORK — With each twist, leap and turn, it's clear how gracefully Jacalyn Tatro moves — and it’s no surprise this Illinois native is attending The Juilliard School as a dance major this fall.

"I only dreamed of getting in, so when that became on opportunity for me, that was something I definitely had to grab on to," Tatro said.

She received a little money from Juilliard but could still use help with her tuition, so she went to the New York City Dance Alliance to audition for the foundation’s College Scholarship Program.

The alliance "has done so much for my career and my training already. Receiving money from the foundation would just again be the biggest help to further my career for next year," Tatro said.

The college scholarship program has been in place since 2010. It was created by Joe Lanteri, a dancer who knew firsthand how hard it was to make ends meet.

"These are incredibly talented teenagers with their entire lives ahead of them. They do have big dreams, and they do have very big aspirations, and I think the fact that some of them feel that they may not be able to pursue it because they cannot afford it is a crime," Lanteri said.

Lanteri founded the nonprofit with the mission to empower the next generation of professional dancers, setting them up with the very best training. He said the scholarship program was a natural next step.

"We've awarded, in about seven years, over $2 million in college scholarships. And I do think probably at this event, we'll probably add another $200 to $250,000 dollars," Lanteri said.

Hundreds of teens registered for this year’s scholarship audition in the city. The process is stressful and rigorous, but landing money toward college will be well worth it.

"A lot of dancers don't think college or even dance is an option. But coming here, so many dancers are going to school and it's because of what Joe and the NYCDA Foundation is doing," one student said.