This is New York: William Coles, Creating a Positive Spiral of Change

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“The kids in this neighborhood have a lot of potential, but they lack the necessary life skills to succeed such as respect, perseverance.”

William Coles

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The Power of Words

NEW YORK—William Coles, 25, is the co-founder of Dance for Change, a nonprofit organization that uses the art of dance to raise resources for charities. Yet, six years ago, he was a college dropout who was kicked out of his mother’s house and could not commit to a job. It may take a village to raise a child, but sometimes it only takes one person to alter someone’s course in life.

Terry Winston, a Brooklynite who specializes in reality, took Coles in at that delicate time of his life.

Winston founded the New York Leadership Foundation, an organization that aspires to reduce violence and poverty in East Brooklyn by teaching its residents, particularly youth, important life skills through business coaching projects. And its ripple effect is beginning to be felt throughout and beyond the community of Brownsville.

Winston has taught invaluable life experience and lessons to many young people over the years, and a lot of them, such as Coles, have gone on to do similar things.

Under Winston’s “starting over” program, Coles had to read for six hours everyday. During the rest of the day he was left in charge of small house projects that required him to keep track of finances, hire people, and finish before a deadline.

“It’s a good place. I think it’s really needed for people who have dreams, want to do better,” Coles said. “I always had a heart to do something greater than myself, but I was missing focus.”

“The kids in this neighborhood have a lot of potential, but they lack the necessary life skills to succeed such as respect, perseverance,” he said.

Since he lived under Winston’s guidance, Coles has been traveling to local inner-city high schools to give inspirational speeches for the past three years. 

Lead by Giving

Coles’s philosophy is that life should be lived for others. “If you give to someone, it’s a guarantee your needs will be met. It’s like a law. If you live that way, things will get better little by little,” he said.

Raised by a single mother, Coles and his two siblings lived in homeless shelters at one point of their childhoods.

He recalled how despite extenuating circumstances, his mother was always willing to help others.

“She will give you her last dime even though she needs to pay rent tomorrow,” he joked. “Terry gave me the leadership part, but you need to combine [it with generosity] to help people. And I learned that from my mother.”

Less than a year ago, Coles founded Dance for Change, a new social initiative that inspires dancers to impact the world positively with their art. 

The organization creates music videos and gives live performances to raise money for various charities and causes. They plan to spend two months on each nonprofit they help.  

The first nonprofit they are going to work with is Charity Water, an organization that brings clean drinking water to developing countries. Its founder, Scott Harrison, happens to go to the same church as Coles. They aim to finish the first dance video for Charity Water by Feb. 1. 

Coles believes that the solution to alleviating the world’s problems is to lead rather than to follow. But in order to be a good leader one must set an example.

“I think leadership is everything,” he said. His favorite quote is one from pastor John Maxwell, who once said, “Everything rises and falls under leadership.”


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