West Virginia University alumnus Mark Rogalsky has been named in the “Top 10 Deserving and Caring Social Workers,” by Social Work Today magazine. Rogalsky, who never thought that he would ever learn to ballroom dance, was instrumental in bringing the program Dancing Classrooms to Pittsburgh and now serves as its program coordinator.
The mission of Dancing Classrooms is to build social awareness, confidence and self-esteem in children through the practice of social dance. It is about creating an atmosphere that allows students who are typically introverted and reserved to step out and shine. It focuses physical energy and increases health through the joy of movement. The program builds self-esteem and interactive social skills as it improves children’s confidence and their ability to relate to others.
“When we have a competition between the schools, parents are coming out of the woodwork and cheer as if it were the Super Bowl,” Rogalsky said. “It truly is amazing.”
Rogalsky recognized Dancing Classrooms as a program that would greatly help at-risk youth. The program already existed as a national program, and after community meetings, fund raising, and an approval from the superintendent of the Pittsburgh schools, Rogalsky and his colleagues brought it to Pittsburgh.
Rogalsky realized that working with children would be his life’s mission when he was a camper at the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Center’s overnight camp, located minutes from the WVU campus on Cheat Lake. Seeing the positive impact this program has on children’s’ lives is the best part of it for him.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing as the most memorable because we’ve seen so many amazing things happen with the kids, and every time we think we’ve reached that ultimate success point, we hear another even more amazing story,” he said.
“Our first year when we had our competition was quite memorable. We had all six schools with 72 kids on stage, and watching them perform their warm-up dances in perfect synchronization?they all raised their arms at the same time to do the meringue turn?it was such a powerful sight to see. I thought, ‘Wow. We really did it. It’s really happening.’”
Rogalsky graduated from WVU in 1985 with his Master’s in Social Work. He has held a variety of social service positions-from camp director to mental health therapist to his current role as unit manager for prevention services at Mercy Behavioral Health, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.
He will have a new bond with WVU when his daughter, Kallie, enters as a freshman this fall.
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