Emma Parente, 15, a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School...

Emma Parente, 15, a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, led a dance class for children with special needs during the summer at the Church of St. Aidan in Williston Park. Credit: Parente family

An East Williston teenager has brought smiles to the faces of special-needs children through the art of dance.

Emma Parente, 15, a sophomore at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale, led a dance class for children with special needs during the summer at the Church of St. Aidan in Williston Park.

About a half-dozen boys and girls who have autism or Down syndrome participated in the class, titled "I Hope You'll Dance." Parente held five sessions for the children, ages 12 to 18, during a week in July, and plans to run the class next summer as well.

"I've always loved to dance, and I've always had a connection with children with special needs," said Parente, who started dancing when she was 2. "I love watching them learn. They always have big smiles."

To prepare, she began assisting in special-needs dance classes two years ago at Hannah Kroner School of Dance in Albertson.

The effort helped Parente earn a Gold Award, the highest achievement for a Girl Scout.

Parente also has taught various styles of dance -- including ballet, jazz and hip-hop -- at St. Aidan the past four years.

At Kellenberg, she is a member of the school's choir as well as the dance club and prayer club.

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