Former education, nonprofit and human services executive Traci Lester is assuming the role as executive director of the Harlem-based National Dance Institute. She began her new position this week.

Lester served as the chief executive officer of the East Harlem-based nonprofit LSA Family Health Service, a human services agency. Before that, she was the executive director of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, an early literacy, school readiness program. Serving the organization for more than a decade, she developed Reach Out and Read’s expansion plan and fundraising strategy.

Founded in 1976, NDI was started by legendary New York City Ballet principal dancer, Jacques d’Amboise. The non-profit has been at their Harlem headquarters on 147th Street since 2011.

“I started NDI in the belief that all children should have access to the arts, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that NDI would be what it is today,” said d’Amboise. “With Traci on board, I’m confident that we will continue to impact the lives of young people around the world through the power of dance.”
NDI currently serves more than 6,000 public school children per week throughout the city and reaches thousands more through 12 NDI associate programs across the country. There is also an international exchange program in Shanghai, China.

The daughter of a jazz musician, Lester said she always had a personal connection to the performing arts and looks forward to contributing to giving public schools access to the arts.

“It means so much to me to be a part of an organization that feels so passionately about providing young people with access to the arts, especially those children that might not otherwise have the opportunity,” Lester said. “I grew up in a household where music and the arts played a critical role in everyday life and had a profound impact on my formative years. Later, as an educator in the NYC public school system, I saw firsthand how positively my students responded to art, music and dance in their curriculum.”