DANVILLE -- An Angel Among Us didn't want kids to miss out on extra activities just because their family couldn't afford it. She started a dance team for free and she's become much more than just a coach.
Critical Ambition is a dance team that has less to do with knowing the steps and more to do with knowing who you are.
"It just means how important it is to believe in yourself and have ambition and follow your dreams."
It’s not something these kids always hear.
"A lot of parents don’t care what they’re going to be. Might tell the kids they’re not going to be anything when they grow up."
Christina Lake is changing that. She realized some kids in Danville needed something to belong to and something to be proud of.
"I know they are better off with me then at home doing nothing."
The 26 year old started the group about a year ago. They practice here twice a week at Garfield school. Show choir and the hip hop dance squad in high school gave Lake the skills to teach. Her home life gave her the heart to do it.
"My parents were on drugs, real bad, really bad and we had no food in house. My dad was known for being the drug guy."
She was taken away from her parents at five. Lake’s aunt adopted her and she lived with ten brothers and sisters.
"I learned to grow up in struggle. I never had it easy."
That makes her the perfect person to connect to these kids.
"Somebody they can talk to who’s not going to judge them, for their situation. Somebody who understands."
They lean on her and not just at twice a week practice.
"So many of the kids get a hold of me on a daily basis for whatever they need. They want to talk about life or what’s going on for them. They’ll call or text me now 'Miss Christina, someone’s trying to fight me. What do I do?'”
That's because if they get suspended from school, they get suspended from the dance team.
"I just try to stay on them, and show them as much love and support as I can."
For some kids, that means a phone call. For others, it’s more. Life is also struggle for 16 year old Jordan Williams. Lake picks Jordan up for practice since Mom lives in Chicago and Dad isn’t around much.
"He has nowhere to go. He has nothing to do."
And some days nothing to eat, but his coach isn’t about to let him go.
"She’s like a mom to me. She cares a lot about me. Once I tried to quit and she said no," said Williams.
Lake’s not letting any of them go. She sees Critical Ambition as a way to bring peace to a city that some days doesn’t have it.
"I keep trying to drill it into their heads that we need to be the first examples of that and then it will spread to their friends and their people."
Reverend Frank McCullough has been spreading that message for 30 years as one of the Three Kings of Peace in Danville. He says he's found their Queen.
"She don’t get paid for this but her effort, I tell you, is countless. The time she puts into this, you can’t pay for it."
Reverend McCullough’s church is building a new Children’s Fellowship Center that will one day be the new home of Critical Ambition. McCullough wants to make sure the dance troupe and Lake have a long future in this city.
"It’s going to pass down for generations for kids to come and not be out on the streets."
All of this because a hometown girl saw a need and filled it with music and love and understanding. She wishes others would learn from her like her students are.
"It hurts me a lot to have everyone say I can’t wait to move out of Danville. I can’t wait to leave. Danville isn’t nothing. Danville doesn’t have anything. So instead of everyone wanting to leave why don’t we stay and try to make an effort to make it better. That was my choice and it seems like it’s working."
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money to build on to Mount Olive Church.
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