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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Jasmine McDuffey says she spends more time in a dance studio in Richmond Heights than any place else.

“I think I love dance ever since I stepped foot into Dedications,” said Jasmine.

CBS4’s Rudabeh Shahbazi visited the 17-year-old and her dance classmates after she wrote to CBS4 about her mentor, Raymond Young, the man she calls her best friend.

“Over 50 people attend every Friday and Saturday, ranging in ages from 2 to 30, each having their own story about how Mr. Young has positively impacted their lives,” said Jasmine as she read from an email sent to CBS4. “He has left a mark on the Richmond Heights community, Miami, and the world, all while keeping God first.”

Jasmine said she remembers a time when she didn’t have the confidence to take to the stage, when someone told her she wasn’t built to be a dancer.

“I would say I didnt want to dance anymore because I saw the other dancers that were more flexible and had more technique and those thoughts about me becoming a professional dancer quickly went out there,” she said.

That’s when Young stepped in. As founder and artisic director of Dedications Dance Academy, he made it his mission to help young people like Jasmine.

“I get emotional when I talk about this. If you would’ve looked at her five years ago someone would’ve said ‘you know what? I dont see her blossoming into the beautiful young lady that she is’,” said Young. “But I saw something in her, there was something in her eyes and I never gave up. I embraced her, I nutured her. I was tough on her and now when you see her on stage she’s like a jewel that has been defined and is finally ready to shine.”

Young, who danced professionally in his younger years, said he discovered his true calling when he arrived in Richmond Heights.

“One day God said to me ‘enough is enough, no more dancing to be a star. I want you to use your gift to impact this world by pouring into children’. I couldnt understand it, but God wanted me to use my gift and now i understand why,” he said. “Because we are located in the inner city, a lot of my students, unfortunately, come from a single broken home where there is an absence of a father, so I’ve adopted the role of father to so many of my students.”

Young’s dancers recently put on a performance at the Bethel Apolostic Church in North Miami Beach, their “Echoes of Freedom” was a tribute to African-American history.

“So what I do is train my dancers to channel their frustrations through the stage as opposed to demonstrating, we use the stage as our voice,” said Young, “Because there is something magical, there is something mystical about the stage.”

It’s that magic that has kept Jasmine motivated and ready to follow her dreams

“Once I leave high school I want to be just like Mr. Y, have my own dance studio,” she said. “This has become way more than a hobby, this has become my passion. Thank you for many years of dedication to Dedications and to the parent who told me dance isn’t for everyone. Dance certainly isnt for everyone but dance is certainly for me.”

Young has been mentoring young men and women for the past decade.

“So that’s what I do with my students. I’m tough on them. When I say ‘5-6-7-8’ I mean ‘5-6-7-8’ (claps hands) because I’m teaching them discipline but on that other hand I love on them and I nuture them and I remind them that they are somebody,” he said.

Jasmine, who is a teacher at Dedications and Young’s assistant, is set to graduate next year. Her dream is to attend Barry University and major in business with a minor in fine arts.

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