Most pre-teen boys prefer to plop down in front of a flat screen TV and spend hours fighting away zombies and bad guys.
Not JT. This 17-year-old turns on the computer, but for a completely different reason.
He points his browser window to YouTube and types in “Michael Jackson."
Before the iconic notes of “Thriller" can filter through the speakers, JT is in position.
A wide-brimmed black hat rests low on his forehead. A sparkling silver glove – possibly a few sizes too big – is on his right hand and JT can’t stop his feet from moving to the beat.
He showcased these talents at a recent dance lesson at Theater Works in Peoria.
JT taught himself how to dance by watching the online videos every chance he got, which is sometimes during his speech classes at school or from the phone of one of the adults at his group home. His favorite MJ song is “You Rock My World.”
“My other favorite is ‘Thriller’ and the other one is ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billy Jean’ and then, ‘This Is It’ the movie. I love that movie. That movie is fun," he said.
He took his dancing to the stage last year at the school’s talent competition and took home first place.
When he’s not talking about Michael Jackson or dancing, JT is passionate about his love of hot wings and spicy food.
His favorite dish at school isn’t pizza or hamburgers and French fries, its jalapenos.
“Actually, I put it on some foods, but a lot of times I eat it alone," he said. “My real favorite food is hot wings. I love hot wings a lot.”
JT comes across as a quiet, shy child, said Sarah Walker, his Child Protective Services case manager.
“It takes a while to warm up to you, but once he does, there’s definitely a lot there that’s loveable about him," Walker said. “…he does have some challenges and he does…he definitely needs a lot of team work – all of us working together to make sure we can find him a good family."
JT deserves to be a part of a family who is willing to stick out the hard times with him, Walker said.
“All kids in CPS care are considered special needs because they’ve been through some kind of trauma that brought them into CPS care; I would say on the spectrum that he’s definitely higher up on the special needs just because of his age," Walker said. “It’s always harder to move kids when they’re older just because they’ve had so many years in their past.”
JT will one day find his forever family and they will be able to help him shine in areas outside of the dance studio, Walker said.
“He seems like a very serious child, but when he’s with people he can feel comfortable with, he definitely can smile, can laugh. And that’s my hope for him," she said. “That he can find that kind of family."
For more information about JT, please contact Brianna Rossi at (602) 930-4601 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.