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Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes has broken several barriers in the realm of sports and now she’s on a mission to inspire and empower youth to do the same. According to Black Enterprise, Dawes is working on opening a gymnastics academy in Maryland.

The school—dubbed The Dominique Dawes Gymnastics Academy—will be located in Clarksburg. The Silver Spring native—who was the first African American to make the national women’s team in 1988 and years later became the first Black person to win an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics—says through the academy she wants to use gymnastics as an avenue to help youth develop leadership skills, build their self-confidence and evolve emotionally and socially. The academy will host classes, camps, and events for children of all ages. The Clarksburg location is slated to open its doors this Spring and Dawes hopes to open other academies in Maryland. She wants the academies to be a part of her legacy.

“All four of my kids are my motivation! They will be active in the gymnastics and ninja programs and I couldn’t be more proud to build a community to empower and positively encourage today’s generation of gymnasts and beyond,” said Dawes in a statement. “Words leave a lasting impact on the self-esteem of a young child, which is why it’s beyond gold medals here at Dominique Dawes Gymnastics Academy. Every child that walks through our doors will know that they are valued. My amazing staff will understand that the most important kid is the one standing right in front of them.”

News about her academy comes at a time where there is a need for more diversity in gymnastics. According to The Undefeated, a 2007 study revealed a mere 6.61 percent of people participating in the sport were African American.


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