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Breakdancer inspires teens to dance to their own tune

While he is still a passionate breakdancer, Michael Prosserman spends most of his time these days working behind the scenes on his charity.

SELINA CHAN/The Globe and Mail

The donor: Michael Prosserman

The gift: Creating Unity Charity

The reason: To provide after-school programs for teenagers

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When Michael Prosserman was in Grade 11, he took an entrepreneurship class and had to complete a term project. By then, Mr. Prosserman had become an avid breakdancer and he used dancing as a way of coping with a series of family troubles, including his mother's mental-health issues and the breakdown of his parents' marriage.

The high-school project turned into a hip-hop event that soon became a popular after-school program. Mr. Prosserman took the program to York University, where he studied marketing and eventually turned it into Unity, a charity that teaches teenagers breakdancing, spoken-word poetry and graffiti (actually, legal murals), all while offering a message of non-violence.

Today, Unity offers about a dozen after-school programs in Toronto and has chapters in Calgary and Halifax. So far, more than 100,000 teenagers have participated in Unity programs and Mr. Prosserman, 28, is hoping to expand into Vancouver.

"I just saw how powerful it was," Mr. Prosserman said, recalling the growth of Unity. "It was transforming people's lives."

While he is still a passionate breakdancer, Mr. Prosserman spends most of his time on the charity, which has a full-time staff and dozens of volunteers. "This is a full-time commitment," he said. "This is my life."

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