Edwards Dances Her Way to Stardom

Alisha Edwards Earns State & National Recognition



After a successful performance at the Black History Month Assembly, Alisha Edwards ’22 smiles for the camera.

Alisha Edwards ‘22 has been recognized statewide and nationwide for her dancing. 

Edwards won the New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Exceptional Artistry & Community Leadership in Dance. Edwards is among about a hundred students to be presented with official state recognition for her contributions to the arts, and is one of eight students to win the dance award. 

Additionally, she is one out of eleven students to receive an Honorable Mention for the 2022 National Honor Society for Dance Arts Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award.

“I’m very proud of myself, since it’s choreo that I made originally, and it’s all my hard work put into one and I get a reward for it,” said Edwards. Her winning effort involved the complete design and production of an original dance piece, as well as the thorough editing and production of a video to showcase her efforts to the state’s most recognized instructors of dance. 

In addition, Edwards was required to write multiple essays detailing her contributions to dance education and its significance to her daily life. 

It’s a beautiful thing to see the kids take off and do such great work.

— Ms. Vicki Jenkins

Edwards’ piece even pushed her to learn a lifelong communication skill: sign language. 

“I had to learn sign language, because that’s what my solo piece was about: sign language through the body movements, and speaking through without words,” said Edwards. “I started with researching because I wanted to respect the sign language community and make sure all of my movements were right.” 

Edwards’s solo production is the result of a year-long project assigned by the Edison High School Dance Teacher Ms. Vicki Jenkins. 

“I had an assignment that started during COVID. I needed them to be able to move in a small space when we were home, and I had them create these solos. And they came out so great that I took it into a bigger concept. Mr. Ross, during COVID, let us come in, and I chose six solos, or five solos, and we came in, and we put them on the stage, and we recorded them,” said Jenkins. 

“Alisha came up with this amazing concept of using sign language in her dance,” Jenkins said. “And she did not know sign language. She had to learn it. Her piece was contemporary, for sure. The fact that she did that on her own—I help the kids, I direct them, I give them feedback, but it’s really their piece. Obviously, I’m there to give them direction and help them where they need, but she really did that on her own. It was very creative.”

Alisha’s achievements have brought excitement to Edison High. Her success brings greater attention to the school’s dance program, which has seen tremendous growth in both its recognition and outreach over the past five years. 

“It is really exciting, and it makes me feel really proud,” said Alisha’s mother and school child study team member, Ms. Shanda Edwards. “I was informed that most of the students that received the award attend performing arts school, so I thought that spoke really highly of our dance program here at Edison High, that a student who attends just a regular high school was able to achieve such an honor.” Five of the eight Governor’s Award recipients are from county vocational technical schools. 

“I am beyond excited,” said Jenkins. “I’ve been in the district for five years. I’ve only been at Edison High four years. To have this kind of recognition, so early on, I’m humbled. It’s a beautiful thing to see the kids take off and do such great work.”

Edwards will continue dancing when she graduates from high school.

“Any time I’m feeling sad, stressed, or happy, I just end up dancing, and it’s something that I’ve done since I was two,” she said. “It means absolutely everything to me, so I will continue dancing, maybe not professionally but in a small group.” 

The Edison High Dance Collective 2022 performance was held on Friday, May 27, 2022, at Middlesex College. 

The 2022 New Jersey Governor’s Awards in Arts Education awards ceremony was held on Thursday, May 26, 2022, at the Patriot’s Theatre at the War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey. The replay can be watched on Youtube.