Meet COCA’s 2023 Pre-Professional Division Seniors

Dance Program Seniors

Noa Dean

In September 2021, I came to COCA. I was a timid girl who was seeking to dance more, dance bigger, and grow myself. And slowly but surely, my time at COCA did exactly that. All my teachers and peers welcomed me with open arms, and I felt at home. As my confidence began to grow, so did my passion, and my teachers took that passion, nurtured it, and have since guided me to reach limits with my dancing that I have only dreamed of. Because of their mentoring and love, I am able to attend Chautauqua Institution of Dance on scholarship this summer. 

So, thank you COCA. Thank you, Mr. Antonio, for making me discover I’m more capable than I thought; thank you, Miss Jen, for the hundreds of classes that have only grown my love for dance; and thank you to my new friends. You guys bring the energy and inspiration to class every day that I couldn’t be more grateful for. While I wish I had more time with COCA, it is time to move on to bigger things, bigger places. 

Thank you. You will always be in my heart.  

Jada Folarin-Hines

This is my second and final year at COCA. What a time! Great opportunities and great people. I feel very supported by COCA, and now I can take on the world. COCA has allowed me to view the world with the eyes of an artist. Dance is no longer a hobby but my future career. Even though that thought scares me, COCA has made me feel like it is the right one. In the fall, I plan to attend Alonzo King’s Lines in San Francisco, associated with the Dominican University of California. I plan to devote time to developing my dance career, while also preparing to become a medical malpractice lawyer.  

I would like to thank my family for taking time out of their lives to support, congratulate, care, and nurture my dance education. Thank you so much for the advice and encouragement you gave me along the way. With only two years under my belt at COCA, I would love to thank my teachers for providing me with a space to grow and giving me substantial knowledge about so many things. And more importantly, I appreciate how they built a strong and authentic relationship with me. Thank you for being my doctors, teachers, mentors, and family. Lastly, I would like to thank myself for being present, active, and productive in my training. It wasn’t easy but I am very proud of who I have become.

Keenon Hamburg

I’ve been going to COCA for about two years. In those two years, I have grown and gotten more confident in my dancing. Not only did COCA help my dancing it helped me find friendships and build relationships with people that have the same interests as me. I want to thank Mr. Kirven, Ms. Ashley, Mr. Michael, Ms. Norma, and Mr. Antonio for helping me become the dancer I am today. I would also like to thank my family for their support. This summer, I will be going to the Alvin Ailey Adult Summer Intensive. Even though this is my second year here, I feel like I’m at home.


Kylie Martin

I had no idea walking into my first COCA class at 13 would change my life forever. I was encouraged and welcomed with open arms, and instantly I felt like I was home. It was unlike any dance studio I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t get enough, so the following year I dove straight in and auditioned for the Pre-Professional Division. COCA has given me the space to grow and explore myself without fear of judgment. Dancing here shaped me into the person I am today. It gave me confidence and strength to carry me into my future. COCA has defined all that I am and all that I hope to be. I want to thank my friends, family, and teachers for always believing in me and getting me to where I am today. I am so grateful to all of you! Next year I will be continuing my dance training in the BFA program at Ohio State University. 

Yaya Shourd

My time at COCA has been nothing short of amazing. I started when I was eight in the Ballet Summer Intensive but wanted to try hip-hop. So, I wore my ballet shoes to hip-hop later that day. This was just the start of my journey at COCA. I have a missing vertebrae that hinders my physical abilities. The doctors said I may not walk, but I wanted to dance. COCA has given me a space to be able to push past my limits and prove to myself my capabilities. I’m so lucky to have formed lifelong friendships while also working on my passion for dance.  

This fall, I will start at DePaul University in Chicago with a double major in marketing and psychology. I will continue to dance in the city and in the shower. Although I won’t be continuing my pre-professional training in college, Mr. Kirven and Antonio, you’ve facilitated a space where I always want to strive for growth and given me wisdom that can be applied to any career I pursue. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me for all my years in COCAdance. Also, thank you to my previous teachers, along with Ms. Mariko, Ms. Jen, Ms. Sam, Ms. Ellen, Mr. Leo, and Ms. Gabby. Thank you to my parents, words can’t express the gratitude I feel for having your support and love.  

Lastly, Ms. Lee, I appreciate the foundation you created for COCA along with me. Rest in Paradise. See you soon COCA. 

Samantha Beasley

I came to COCA when I was fifteen years old. During that point COVID had started, and my lessons were quickly cut short. However, I did attend an online acting class with one of the most sincere and amazing teachers. Unfortunately, after that class I no longer took anything else, until summer of 2022. I decided to go back to COCA and dance again as I had so wished for. Coming back to COCA and dancing really made me realize how much I loved it and how I would hope to continue dancing in the future. I plan to continue dancing at COCA throughout the summer, and hopefully when I go off to college, I can find another wonderful place to dance. I am so lucky to have a family that fills my heart with strength, joy, and love. Thank you all for encouraging me to dream big dreams and for teaching me the value of working hard to achieve them.

Theatre Artist Seniors

Sarah Herzog

My time at COCA has been one of meaning, importance, education, and fun. There are three key childhood experiences at COCA that together helped foster my passion. These are: Musical Theatre dance with Ms. Gina, creating musical reviews in camps, and performing in my first musical: The Jungle Book Kids. I’ve been a member of Vocal Company both in middle school and now, as a senior in high school. Through it, I have been able to develop my passion for musical theatre and expand the depth of my knowledge of the form through exposure to different styles. Through countless shows, musical reviews, workshops, and classes I’ve learned not just the art of theatre, but the need for dedication and a strong work ethic. Although I am undecided about where I will attend college next fall, I plan to pursue a psychology major with a theatre minor. I’m excited about also continuing my music education through ensembles on campus. I would like to thank the directors of Vocal Company through the years: Colin Healy, Alicia Revé Like, and Jermaine Manor. I would also like to thank the directors of COCAwrites, my dance teachers, and any other teaching artist I’ve worked with at COCA. I’m grateful for your commitment to sharing your expertise and passion with young performers. Finally, I would like to thank my parents; without you, none of this would be possible. Thank you for finding COCA and encouraging me to continue to pursue theatre. 

Anaya White

Senior year. Last homecoming, senior nights, skip days, spirit weeks and pep rallies, prom, and then graduation. The next steps will be some of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life, and college is the first. I plan on attending AMDA in Los Angeles in the upcoming fall semester majoring in acting for film and television. COCA has helped me tremendously in so many ways to prepare for my next steps in my career for performing arts. I want to thank everyone who has had faith in me even when I couldn’t see my own potential. I am also thankful for the little time I’ve experienced here because the muscle memory I’ve gained has been beneficial in ways I couldn’t imagine. Thank you God for allowing me this opportunity and for my parents who allowed me to pursue it! 


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