Our mission is to change the perspective of how abused and neglected girls in the juvenile detention system see themselves. The Swan Within program gives girls a chance to claim new lives and be empowered through ballet.
"Walk Through Life With Grace"
While the dance students are presently detained within juvenile rehabilitation centers for a variety of juvenile offenses, the overwhelming majority of the girls have survived physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and been neglected by those responsible for them.
There is no such thing as a child prostitute.
Notwithstanding, the majority of the girls in juvenile custody have experienced child sex trafficking. The girls have been labeled as ‘troubled, delinquent, problematic, etc.’ before their selection for the program. However, Swan Within sees them only as dance students still in the innocence of childhood with individual qualities and aspirations.
Swan Within provides the opportunity to rediscover the grace and strength within themselves and carry that spirit as they move forward through their young lives.
The girls enter the program having developed detachment to cope with their experience of neglect, abuse and incarceration. Studying ballet with Swan Within interrupts the destructive narrative surrounding the student dancers and creates the opportunity for each girl to rediscover their identity within a creative atmosphere. The rigor of ballet helps the girls gain agency over their bodies. The students transfer the graceful control over their own bodies required for ballet performance into personal strength needed to reclaim their identities.
Swan Within helps them heal.
“I wanted to create a safe space for girls who have been abused so they have full agency over their bodies”
meredith harper houston | Founder
Meredith Harper Houston is the Founder and Chair of The Swan Within.
The Swan Within is a nonprofit that transforms the lives of underage girls who have survived of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and continue to suffer through juvenile incarceration. Meredith founded Swan Within to create 'a safe space for girls who have been abused so they can have full agency over their bodies'. Informed by her own transformative ballet journey out of the trauma caused by abuse, Meredith created a ballet-based curriculum to combine scholarship and mentorship for teenage girls.
Meredith is also a business owner in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Her Merryland Dance Studio teaches children and adults ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop. The staff connects with each dancer and considers personal limitations with kindness and acceptance. This ideology led Meredith to create an academic dance curriculum for preschools and elementary schools in the Greater Los Angeles Area.