MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Dorothy Paad is a Northern Michigan University student. She has been attending since 2016, but for Paad she never thought she would go to college let alone attend dance classes at college.
Ever since she was a little girl, Paad had always wanted to be a ballerina. But living with a disability, it made it difficult to find classes who were willing to be wheelchair accessible.
“My parents had always encouraged me, but the only classes we could find were classes for people in wheelchairs. Now that’s fine, that’s great. I know a lot of people that take them and enjoy them. But I didn’t want to be in the ‘special class’. I wanted to be with my peers, and with other girls who wanted to do ballet.”
Until one day a few years ago, she met NMU dance professor Jill Grundstrom at a dance instruction hosted by Superior Alliance for Independent Living.
“Ms. Jill was the one who said ‘Dorothy, I think you should come to college.’ And I’m like…come to college? Okay, first off, that’s like totally, that was totally not on my radar screen. And then she says ‘Come to college and do ballet!’ And I’m like…what?! But she talked me into it, and I signed up and Ms. Jill has just been sunshine in my life.”
And so Paad did, and she has grown to love not only ballet, but also jazz, choir, and performing for the theater.
Paad said before she met Grundstrom, she was having a difficult time. She was experiencing a lot of anxiety and didn’t want to leave the house. But since attending classes at NMU, it has helped her cope with and manage her anxiety.
“Dorothy is probably one of the bravest people I’ve ever met,” said Jill Grundstrom. “I mean, just going into a dance class I’ve ever gone into, and I’ve been dancing since I was two and a half. I still have anxiety about going into class and worrying about how they’re going to teach[…] And she just literally rolled right in there and found her spot in the front row, at the end of the row. That was Dorothy’s spot, and she just owned it.”
Paad found her passions in life from someone finally giving her the courage to follow them; and she has a message for people who want to try new things but may think they’re not capable of doing it.
“I would say to them, ‘Just please, do it! Even if you’re scared. You just dance your dance and sing your song.'”