Online school gives Detroit teen the flexibility to follow his passion of traditional Mexican dancing

Posted at 4:01 PM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 16:01:09-04

(WXYZ) — For some students, the shift to virtual learning during the pandemic has been tough, but there are other students who are thriving — with online schooling offering them something brick and mortar can’t.

"One of my favorite states we do is Jalisco, which is the most traditional dance," said 16-year-old Carlos Angeles of Detroit.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Angeles

Angeles has a passion, and that’s traditional Mexican dancing. He’s a member of the Ballet Folklorico De Detroit.

"We're based in Detroit, Michigan. We do Mexican traditional dancing. We try to keep everything as traditional as possible," he said.

Angeles said he first joined when he was 10 years old, and has essentially grown up helping others learn about his culture through the art of dance.

"Dancing brings old traditions that are over 161 years old into modern times. It makes me think of my family roots and how they tie into the history of Mexican folkloric dancing."

Photo courtesy of Carlos Angeles

Angeles recently started attending the Great Lakes Learning Academy, a tuition free online public school founded in 2013.

"It gives me more of a flexible schedule, so I have more time to practice at home and practice where I go to practice," said Angeles.

Dan Shadik, who is the dean of students at GLLA, said it’s that relationship building and individualized attention that really sets them apart.

"We create those relationships and we offer that flexibility, much like for Carlos in Detroit ... he came to GLLA, we said, 'let's work with you,'" said Shadik.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Angeles

Shadik says he’s seen an increased interest in the school during the pandemic, noting there is currently a waitlist for GLLA, but that not much has changed for them in terms of approach.

"I know the pandemic has really hit other schools really hard, but we're still doing what we were doing before, you know, and we're still knocking on doors, we're still talking to our kids, we're still engaging in those relationships," he said.

Shadik says at GLLA there are some students who need a schedule that will allow them to pursue their passions, but that they also welcome students who have been cast aside.

"We take students where other places have said, 'you're a dropout ... you have no future, you know, we're sorry, we can't help you.' And we're like, 'yes, we can help you,'" said Shadik.

The main take away, he says, is that every child learns differently.

If you’re interested in learning more about what GLLA has to offer, check out for more information.