In 1983, Beth Burns, who at the time was a sister with the order of St. Joseph of Orange, founded our organization under the name Saint Joseph Ballet as a summer pilot dance program for at-risk youth. The program was an immediate success, which prompted Burns to extend its duration past the summer months, moving shortly thereafter to the basement of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana. A community engagement effort called Dance Free Weeks followed in 1985 to bring our organization’s dance education curriculum into surrounding public schools each fall. By 1989, our organization was receiving national recognition and serving 150 students in a donated 4,000-square-foot space with one studio in downtown Santa Ana.
Throughout our second decade, as our student population and services grew, we added additional creative learning opportunities and an individualized tutoring program to aid students on their paths to college. The effort paid off when, in 1998, college scholarship awards were established for the growing number of graduates enrolling in higher education. The following year, our organization grew to a 21,000-square-foot campus with three dance studios, education and community centers, which were funded by a large cross section of supporters who raised a total of $6.8 million for the construction and to establish the Endowment Fund.
By the early 2000s, we grew again to serve 375 students with expanding services, which include academic assistance, college preparatory guidance, crisis intervention, and intensive dance immersion with leading dance choreographers from around the country. After over 20 years at the helm of our organization, founder Beth Burns retired in 2005, remaining connected to the organization and was honored as a Board Emerita. 2005 also marked the first year that 100% of our graduates enrolled in college, a feat that has continued to this day. In 2009, our organization changed its name to The Wooden Floor®, with the tag line From here, you can step anywhere®, to reflect the comprehensive nature of our model as we evolved into one of the foremost creative youth development nonprofit organizations in the country as well as to reflect the solid foundation provided by our organization to each student.
The Wooden Floor’s Board of Directors and staff set an ambitious 10-year Strategic Vision 2010-2020 to: Advance our Current Model, Grow Local Impact, and Increase Visibility and Advocacy. The intensive initiative led to significant organizational gains in all areas including plans for expanding The Wooden Floor’s impact both locally, and nationally. Locally, The Wooden Floor expanded in 2018 to serve an additional 100 students and their families at a second location in Santa Ana within the Depot at Santiago workforce housing community, now totaling nearly 500 students year-round who are served from 3rd-12th grade. Nationally, The Wooden Floor created a Licensed Partner Program to help achieve our goal of transforming more young people in low-income communities across the nation.
After the impressive success of its Strategic Vision 2010-2020, The Wooden Floor launched its current 10-Year Strategic Vision 2021-2031 to: Drive Social Innovation, Grow Impact and Uplift our community, during the world-wide pandemic. The organization’s focus is to ensure, post-pandemic, that students have the social, emotional, and academic well-being to keep their big dreams intact for higher education and beyond. Celebrating 40 Years of Impact in 2023, with national and international grants and awards, an innovative brand refresh and the launch an Endowment Campaign called Step Forward, The Wooden Floor is positioned to propel young people forward well into the next 40 years through its new mission statement: To inspire and transform the lives of young people through the power of dance and access to higher education. TheWoodenFloor.org