Snapshots: The Energizers Club

Amy Bracken
July 1, 2000


To foster self-development, literacy, community responsibility, social skills, personal finance skills and physical fitness for at-risk boys
and girls ages nine to 15.

In a Nutshell:

An eight-week summer day camp takes youths on field trips twice a week and provides instruction in African dance and drumming, Afro-Cuban drumming, improvisational theater, modern dance, hip hop dance, hip hop theater, step dance, computers, and life skills training. The youths must participate in various chores, such as clean-up, for which they receive an honorarium (generally $15 a week and $15 a week in a savings account to be given to them at the end of the summer).

During the school year, youths attend an after-school program that includes chores, homework help, arts and crafts, physical fitness, dance, games and discussion groups. The youths go on field trips for volunteer work (such as pulling up weeds at a community garden), learning and recreation.

Where It Happens:

At Dance Place, in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C.,
a neighborhood starving for after-school or summer programs, youth programs, recreation centers and libraries.

When It Began:


Who Started It:

Carla Perlo, founder and director of Dance Place, a dance theater and training facility, and of Carla & Company, a modern dance group.

Who Runs It:

Carla Perlo and Youth Program Coordinator Hermione Rhones. The Energizers program
is part of the Dance Place/Next Generation cultural and educational programs for youth and families.


The annual budget is $97,500.

Who Pays:

Foundations, including the local Summit Fund, which has given $30,000, the Mardi Gras Fund, the Clark-Winchcole Foundation and the Yochelson Fund, each of which have given $10,000, as well as individuals.

Early Obstacle:

The lack of respect some of the kids had for the Dance Place facility itself: putting their feet on the table, tipping over chairs, rough-housing, and generally being careless.

How They Overcame It:

By requiring youths to do maintenance work, administrative support work and theater support work, the Energizers have become part of the Dance Place community and now take pride in the appearance of the building, for which they are partly responsible.

Kids Served:

When Perlo started in 1996, she had eight to 10 boys. There are now 36 youths in the after-school program and 30 in the summer camp, with an ever-growing waiting list, as the number of camp participants is limited due to space.

Kid Turn-Off:

Some of the chores, such as picking up trash by the Metro overpass.

Kid Turn-On:

Going on field trips. These include a swimming pool, Rock Creek Park (to barbecue, rollerblade, etc.), Six Flags theme park, the theater, the cinema and a food bank (to volunteer).

What Still Gets In The Way:

The ratio of kids to mentors is too high. Perlo and Rhones are hunting for more adults to mentor youth.


“Through [my son’s] participation and your interaction with him, your program should be commended. His ability to work with others and to concentrate are just a small [part] of what the energizers program has meant to him and myself.” — in a letter to Carla Perlo from a parent of an Energizers participant.


Carla Perlo, director, or Hermione Rhones, youth program coordinator, Dance Place, 3225 8th St., NE, Washington, DC 20017. (202) 269-1600. E-mail:

Bracken, Amy. "Snapshots: The Energizers Club." Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 42.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.