Executive Director, CMS FoundationSonja Gantt is a proud Tar Heel. Charlotte is home and she’s spent most of her life in North Carolina. After graduating from East Mecklenburg High School, Sonja received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill.For 28 years she’s worked as both a reporter and anchor in a number of television newsrooms (WBTW, WBTV, WGN and WCNC). But now instead of sharing the news of the day Sonja is grateful to be sharing the story of what’s happening in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She serves as the Executive Director of the CMS Foundation. The independent non-profit is a bridge between the philanthropic community and CMS.
Taking part in Dancing with the Stars is an opportunity to spread the CMS Foundation’s message about creating a culture of schoolanthropy – a spirit of support for our schools. CMS Foundation staff work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg school leaders to determine the district’s highest priorities and then raise and steward private dollars to help the district reach its strategic goals. Sonja truly believes that building a broader base of support for CMS translates into an even better and brighter community.
But make no mistake accepting the invitation to dance wasn’t an easy one. She’s not a risk taker and her husband and children often describe her as clumsy. But her appreciation of dance and the opportunity to spread the CMS Foundation message were enough to outweigh the risk.
Sonja’s married to her best friend, Mitch Gibson.They have two children Gabrielle (21) and Grant (17) and a twelve-year-old dog named Rosie.
A few fun facts about Sonja:
- Favorite hobbies: Avid Scrabble player, puzzle lover, reader and former half marathon runner
- Favorite relaxation spot: Any beach
- Dance Experience: None unless you count her high school band’s dance team
- Liz & Juwan: $235,177.00
- Ed & Sarah: $224,769.00
- Weston & Chelsea: $182,818.00
- Judy & Josh: $104,283.00
- Tom & Raven: $102,832.00
- Sonja & James: $57,510.00
Hometown: Lake Villa, IL
Seasons with Charlotte Ballet: 2
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, James grew up dancing at Dancenter North. He trained in ballet, jazz, tap, modern and musical theater. After high school, James studied at Butler University under Marek Cholewa, Susan McGuire, Derek Reid, Cynthia Pratt, Tong Wang, Stephan Laurent and Michelle Jarvis. In 2010, he graduated with a BFA in Dance and was offered an apprenticeship at Ballet San Jose under the artistic leadership of Dennis Nahat. In his second season, James was promoted to Corps de Ballet. During his five years with Ballet San Jose, he was featured in a number of works including Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera, Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room and Jorma Elo’s Glow/Stop.
A few fun facts about James:
- Dancing Since: Age 3
- Favorite choreographer: Ohad Naharin
- Great performance moment: Nailing my pirouettes in the Black Swan Pas de Deux
- Favorite thing about Charlotte: Coming from California, it is going to be nice to have seasons again! Also, all of the hiking trails in the Charlotte area
The CMS Foundation works to generate financial investment to support Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and develop a community-wide culture of schoolanthropy—the support of public education. Our mission is to serve as the trusted bridge between CMS and the donor community. We are dedicated to:
- People – Cultivating a spirit of generosity and professional support for CMS educators
- Power – Being a catalyst for achieving system-wide dreams, goals and objectives
- Purpose – Developing a countywide culture of support for the children of CMS
Our vision is that Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a national leader in public education where teaching is an iconic profession and opportunity abounds for every child.