CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When he was a student at the African American Arts & Heritage Academy, Eric Jordan was happy to be around other young people who enjoyed the arts.
"I played sports," Jordan recalled, "and I had plenty of outlets for sports. But music is my passion, and I only had [the academy] the one outlet for the arts."
Jordan became an instructor at the same academy where he had been a student.
"I was struck by the sense of empowerment I saw in the students who attended the academy," he said. "They did not realize they could do the things we were teaching them to do right now. They could get their hands on their dreams right now in the academy."
Now in its 28th year, the academy gives young people, ages 13 to 18, one week of concentrated study in an artistic discipline of their choice -- dance, music, drama, writing -- all on the Evansdale campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Jordan's father, Norman Jordan, a poet and actor, founded the academy, which is one of the summer camps supported by donations to the Gazette Charities Send-A-Child-To-Camp Fund.
"Some kids wait all year for camp just for that week to be with like-minded people," he said. "I have seen the kid with the most stage fright return the next year to be the biggest artist on stage."
For Jacqueline Dooley, she knew her daughter had outlets for the arts that she was already thriving in. "But it was that heritage component that she lacked," Dooley remembered.
So when her daughter came to the academy, she not only could immerse herself in the singing and dancing she enjoyed, but she could learn about her heritage as well. Her daughter has now graduated from college and works as a musical therapist.