An imaginary bus struck 9-year-old Amiya Alexander at 1:06 in the morning. The outside was pink and the inside was filled with dancing kids. The vision was so strong it woke Amiya.
Amiya hopped out of her bed in Southfield, Mich., just north of Detroit. She quickly sketched a design and delivered it to her sleeping mother, Teberah. Groggy mom offered initial resistance. Eventually she got on board the bus, and that Christmas presented Amiya with the worldâ€™s only mobile dance studio, i.e. a tricked-out, pinked-up school bus, circa 1998.
Outside, as in Amiyaâ€™s vision, the bus is painted pink. Inside, the bus has been stripped of all its school day trappings and looks like a small-but-typical dance studio. Barres line one wall, mirrors line the other. The ceiling glitters pink.
Teberah delivered Amiyaâ€™s dream bus; Amiya had to drive it forward.
Amiya has been dancing sine she was 2, including a stint with the Detroit Pistons Junior Automotion dance squad. She had the dancing goods down.
To set the business half of the equation in motion, Amiya papered Detroit-area schools and childcare centers with advertisements for Amiyaâ€™s Mobile Dance Academy.
She persuaded her great-uncle to come out of retirement to drive her bus. And she likely found inspiration and sought business guidance from Teberah, who became a single mom while a 20-year-old college student. By the time she was 26, the registered nurse owned her own in-home nursing business and was parenting a rising star.
Today, Amiya is 11 and her dance academy travels around Detroit teaching children ballet, tap, hip-hop and more. As president of AMDA, Amiya oversees administrative and artistic staffers, a board of directors, donors and volunteers.
Her students love “Miss Amiya,” as do their parents, who call her a “role model” and an “inspiration.”
Amiyaâ€™s mission comprises three goals: to bring the joys of dance and movement into underserved neighborhoods at affordable prices, to counteract growing childhood obesity rates, and to pay for Harvard Medical School so she can become an obstetrician.
AMDA classes cost approximately $12, though scholarships are available via the nonprofit Rising Stars Dance With Me Program (Amiya Alexander, founder and CEO). While classes primary focus on dance, Amiya and her instructors (a girlâ€™s gotta go to school sometime) talk to students about eating healthy, living active and getting enough rest.
Amiyaâ€™s studio has earned her $10,000 towards Harvard tuition. Sheâ€™s finishing up sixth grade and has a ways to go before her application is due. That hasnâ€™t stopped her from preparing.
Four years ago, long before the vision in pink, Amiya struck up a mentoring relationship with Dr. John Sealey, a thoracic and vascular surgeon at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit.
Sealey, who trains residents at Sinai Grace, invited the future dancing doctor on his rounds. Amiya joined medical students and Sealey, and was bold enough to enter their discussions of patient cases.
“It was amazing,” Sealey told AOL News. “She does it in a respectful way. Sheâ€™s not afraid to be a part of the group. Sheâ€™s not going to be on the outside, thatâ€™s for sure.”
Sealey finds Amiyaâ€™s entrepreneurial spirit “amazing,” and in keeping with her general fearlessness. “She doesnâ€™t have a glass ceiling. Her ceiling isnâ€™t there.”