MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The ghetto called Aroma reeks of putrefying trash collected by its residents for recycling. Half-naked children with grimy faces play on muddy dirt roads lined by crumbling shanties of tarpaulin walls, cracked tin roofs and communal toilets.
From this Manila slum of garbage collectors emerged an unlikely Cinderella: ballerina Jessa Balote who at the age of 10 was plucked out of her grubby life by a ballet school to prepare her for a life on stage.
The 14-year-old Jessa's unlikely success is as much a celebration of a unique effort by the Philippines' most famous prima ballerina, Lisa Macuja, to help slum kids by providing them a scholarship and classical ballet training.
Today, the program has 55 scholars, aged 9 to 18, from five partner public schools such as Jessa's.
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