Since she was four years old all Assata Gaines has aspired to be was a dancer.
Born in Lancaster and having spent time growing up in Gary, Indiana, young Assata maintained a laser focus that ultimately has paid enormous dividends with a full ride scholarship to prestigious New York University (NYU) Tisch School of Arts.
The acceptance percentage for NYU is just south of 16 percent which makes Assata’s achievement all the more remarkable.
NYU has produced the likes of acclaimed director Spike Lee and actress Regina Hall just to name a couple.
Tisch School of the Arts is considered one of the top programs in the world. There just isn’t any other school like it on planet earth.
Founded in 1965, Tisch has emerged as the nation’s preeminent center for the study of performing, cinematic and emerging media arts over the past five decades.
Assata’s family has resided in multiple locations throughout her 17-years of life.
In addition to living in Gary, The Gaines have also lived in the mid-city region of Los Angeles where Assata attended Larchmont Middle School.
Since 2015, the family has made Inglewood their home.
Alan and Carla Gaines are beyond ecstatic of their daughter accomplishments.
“As an African American mother to know that your daughter got into such a prestigious school means the world,” Carla told Inglewood Today. “Just the pursuit of it all despite all the negative stuff you see on the news. I am extremely proud.”
Alan had been wrongly terminated from his job and for 18 months Carla was the lone bread winner in the family with four children.
The fiercely determined Assata would wake up each morning during the COVID-19 pandemic and study master dance classes on YouTube at 5 a.m., then later in the day go to the park and run for 30 minutes.
Her parents equipped the living room of their home with a Freestanding Ballet Barre Stretch/Dance Bar so that she could practice.
She wasn’t just excelling in dance, but most importantly in the classroom as well. Assata maintained a 4.3 grade point average while attending Los Angeles County High School for Arts on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles.
News of her acceptance to NYU came on the heels of already gaining entrance to Spellman and awaiting word from Fordham, the school that produced iconic Alvin Ailey.
Ailey created his own academy and its affiliated Ailey School as havens for nurturing Black artists and expressing the universality of the African-American experience through dance.
So astute is teenage Assata that she credits Carmen de Lavallade as her inspiration.
De Lavallade, 90 years of age, began studying ballet at 16. After being graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, she was awarded a scholarship to study dance with Lester Horton. She still is an active dancer.
However, the moment that Assata will cherish for the rest of her life is when she received the letter of acceptance from NYU.
“We had just come home from Anaheim because we wanted to get out of the house during the pandemic,” Assata explained to Inglewood Today. “I was sitting in my room and I knew it was coming. We all gathered as a family with my three siblings, mom and dad and I opened it.”
“It was a relief because I’ve been working for this and it’s all been worth it.”
Her parents met at HBCU Jackson State University and worked hard to give their children the best opportunity to succeed in life.
Their first born Assata has checked all of the boxes and is on her way to climbing heights not yet seen.
Her ultimate goal is to join a company and earn a creative position in dance and possibly film, and she will be going the one college that excels best at that.