Wingman is a program from Dylan's Wings of Change, a foundation dedicated to Dylan Hockley, one of the first-grade victims in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec 14, 2012. Dylan was six years old and had autism. Dylan's Dad, Ian, recognized that Dylan experienced more happiness, peace and joy when those around him accepted him, protected him and included him in their activities and daily lives...when others were his Wingman. And really, don't we all need a Wingman at some point in our life?
Jessica Michaels, Program Director: Wingman for Dance
Jess, a native of Newtown, CT, has over 10 years of national and international professional dance performance experience that took her from New York City to Los Angeles to London to Tokyo.
With her business savvy and entrepreneurial drive, Jessica’s non-performance achievements include: Co-Founder/ Dance Director of the Atlantic Arts Academy, a pre-professional performing arts academy in Jupiter, FL and the Founder of JAM cosmetics, a healthier stage makeup line for dancers and live performance artists. Impassioned to inspire, Jessica has helped guide young dancers to develop important life and leadership skills through her 20 years of teaching.
She's was teaching at two dance studios greatly impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting on Dec 14, 2012. It was only natural she would become instantly enamored with the Wingman program after meeting the founder, Ian Hockley, father of Dylan Hockley, one of the first-graders murdered in the school that tragic day.
Wingman is a youth-led program of team-bonding/trust-building activities inspiring empathy, courage and inclusion in the dance studio.
Jessica joined the Wingman team when she adapted the program for the dance industry and launched Wingman for Dance in May 2016.
She is also a keynote speaker and special guest presenter sharing the Wingman story and philosophy with the dance industry.
As of December 2019, the Wingman for Dance program is being used in 300+ dance studios in 6 countries!
Ian Hockley, Executive Director, Dylan's Wings of Change
When the Hockley family relocated from England to Connecticut in the winter of 2011 it was the realization of a family dream. Ian had visited the United States regularly since childhood, Nicole was from Rhode Island and Jake was born on the 4th of July; in many ways it was coming home.
They moved to the idyllic town of Sandy Hook which Ian selected after touring the beautiful neighborhoods and meeting the staff at the elementary school, knowing Dylan especially would get a fantastic start as they made their new life. This bright beginning ran full force into the American nightmare on December 14th, 2012 when Dylan was shot and killed in his first-grade classroom alongside 19 of his fellow students and six educators in one of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
Ian and Nicole created Dylan’s Wings of Change, dedicated to his memory with a mission to create strong, inclusive communities. Working with dedicated experts the foundation created Wingman, a youth leadership program that develops social and emotional skills through engaging experiential activities and inspires children to be more empathetic and courageous young leaders.
Ian now works full time for the foundation, dedicated to sharing the dream of acceptance and inclusion for all. He warmly shares Dylan’s story with the world, the 6-year old boy who had his own way of communicating, who radiated pure love and described himself as “a beautiful butterfly” to his mother.