Cheryl Todmann – CUP Fellow Spotlight – Nov 2012

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field? I am the Executive Producer of The Stars of New York Dance, a charitable, thrilling and judged dance competition for New York City leaders that raises dance scholarship funds for children from low-income communities to help them develop discipline, confidence and self-esteem to succeed in school and in life.  I started learning to dance at the age of 30, with two bad knees, and it changed my life.  I became more confident, creative and I started winning awards at work. I was a Senior Advertising/Marketing Copywriter at TV Guide and my creative concepts were helping the sales team land significant advertising deals.  Our publisher said "dance is good for business," and I thought if dance can do that for me, then it would be a great way to help children succeed.

What is the biggest challenge of your work? The greatest challenge of my work is fund raising and creating multiple streams of funding. But this challenge became an opportunity to think creatively to engage individuals in our work. More leaders are signing up to dance and compete and be special guest dancers.  They are experiencing first-hand the same training, challenges and breakthroughs as the young people they are dancing for, and they learn for themselves the power that dance and the arts have in changing lives.  They see the rewards of their participation and become ambassadors of The Stars of New York Dance.

What is your proudest achievement? My proudest achievement was issuing our first dance scholarship; knowing that this young person would not only receive a dynamic dance education but would gain a level of self-awareness and self confidence, and would learn key skills that would propel her to become a leader in whatever profession she chose.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most? Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Brooklyn,  Susan L. Taylor, Rev. Al Sharpton, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowtiz, Council Member Letitia James and Colvin Grannum, President and CEO of Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. They lead, take risks and take action with clarity of vision,  fearlessness and excitement, and always keep the people who are following them top-of-mind.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see everyone in Brooklyn and NYC dancing. I see The Stars of New York Dance televised.  I see it "franchised" in other U.S. cities and states, i.e. The Stars of D.C. Dance and The Stars of New Jersey Dance. I see "The Stars" brand giving thousands of children across the country a chance to dance and succeed in school.  I see myself training young professionals to be Executive Producers, CEOs and Presidents of their own causes, and I see myself grooming a young leader to make The Stars of New York Dance bigger and better.

What is one thing you’ve learned from the CUP Fellows Program that you would pass along to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact? The CUP Fellows program has taught me to overcome my fear of asking for help when I need it.