Profile: Pilot, Dancer Patrick Johnson
By Terri Finch, 'Grand Rapids Press'Patrick Johnson, a former Dance Theatre of Harlem principal dancer and now a dance instructor at Grand Rapids Community College, is also a pilot who works to inspire inner-city children in western Michigan through a variety of means, including teaching them about flight. Johnson, who founded the West Michigan Flight Academy in 2006, runs Young Aviators clubs after school at area elementary schools, as well as a summer day camp at Grand Rapids Community College. By means of aviation, he helps children become inspired to do well in math and science. "His whole thing is, ‘Get up, be a leader, get on with it,’" says Johnson’s wife, Tassia, 45, another dance instructor and former Dance Theater of Harlem dancer: "He wants kids to rise and be the cream of the crop." According to Johnson’s wife, "He is fired up. Fired up. He’ll never say to them, ‘Let’s see if you can make it.’ He says, ‘You can do this. You are capable.’" A native of the Bahamas, Johnson became a pilot in 1992 when he was a professional dancer in New York, then moved to Grand Rapids two years later to work with the Grand Rapids Ballet’s educational programs, and since has become involved with children in a number of venues. "I have a kid who everyone was telling me, ‘Good luck with him.’ He’s a good kid, a smart kid; he just needed someone to give him attention. I’m calling his mother, I’m holding his feet to the fire," he says. "Last summer, we went flying." According to Johnson, "He says, ‘Thank you for not kicking me out.’ That’s what he expected. He said, ‘I really, really love this.’ Now this kid is interested in going to college."
November 12, 2009
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