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Aztec Dance, Drumming, Martial Arts Lessons Offered at Uplift High School

 Uplift Community High School, 900 W. Wilson Ave.
Uplift Community High School, 900 W. Wilson Ave.
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — Chicago Public Schools students can learn about ancient Aztec drumming, dance and martial arts — and make an extra $420 this summer — as part of a new After School Matters program at Uplift Community High School.

Uptown resident Clarissa Gonzalez, an educator and community organizer of Mexican descent, proposed the Mazehual Drumming and Dance Program and will train an expected group of 16 high schoolers from Chicago Public Schools.

The students will be paid $420 at the program's end.

Gonzalez, 29, said she combines her Westernized education in psychology, and experience in community organizing, with research on the traditions, philosophies and cultures of indigenous Americans to teach useful life lessons to young people from all backgrounds.

"They're going to be learning how to work within a team, how to be leaders, how to find their own creativity," said the instructor, who also works for the Indigenous Native Arts & Sciences of Chikomoztok Academy, an organization that works to "research, preserve, apply and share" ancestral knowledge from ancient Mesoamerica.

The dance and drum training promises to be fun, Gonzalez said. But it also offers "a really good workout" that includes high-impact cardio. The program will have youngsters learning ancient rhythms and dancing around a drum — something sure to feature "a lot of squatting and jumping," she added.

The martial arts training will come packaged with philosophical tenants of "warrior's discipline" that Gonzalez said would teach lessons combating "the youth violence issue that Chicago has been seeing."

One of the main principals of the lessons will be "that you're not able to use [martial arts] to just fight, you are only allowed to use it to defend others," she said.

Within that there's the concept of "a real warrior": somebody who understands "fighting battles within yourself so that you don't  accidently create battles outside yourself — how to really work for the community and protect the community," Gonzalez said.

Teens interested in the program — which is slated to run at Uplift Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. starting July 1 and ending Aug. 8 — have until July 5 (the end of the program's first week) to apply though After School Matters.

Gonzalez's Afterschool Matters program will also focus on professional development, including how to write a resume, solve problems in a team setting and communicate effectively, she said.

More than 230 Afterschool Matters programs will provide Chicago teens about 7,000 paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities this summer, according to the organization.