LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Western Middle School Hardsteppers are going for back-to-back national titles, but they need the community's help to make their dream a reality.
Reanna Calloway is never the loudest person in the room. The timid 8th grader can blend into the crowd at Western Middle School, but when she's in formation that all goes away. "When I'm on stage it's like my shy aroma, it's like I'm a whole new person onstage," said Calloway.
Stepping transforms her. "I almost don't recognize who she is. The confidence comes out of her, jumps out of her," said Donzula Grant, Calloway's mother.
The Hardsteppers team at Western has been giving students confidence for the last four years. A sisterhood of 26 girls and one guy, students put in the work by practicing nearly every day, while juggling school work.
"Just practicing hard, staying out of trouble in school so we can come to practice, and practice hard and practice long," said stepper Decorryn Adams.
That time after school has paid off: They're national title winners in step. Now they're going for a repeat performance. "We have to bring back the number one title," said coach Christopher Malone, who is the team's biggest supporter and critic.
He's not afraid to call them out at practice or in the classroom. "I email teachers. I do email teachers. And the teachers let me know what's going on. And I make sure I get them at practice," said Malone.
But his steppers don't mind. "It pays off. When he's yelling at me I get so irritated, but with things like winning nationals and things like that, it pays off," said Adams.
They know that's what it takes to win big and make Western proud, a school that's struggled in the past. "Western used to be one of the lowest performing schools in the state, and we are no longer there. And this is one of the reasons," said Principal Kym Rice.
Performing is central to success at the Portland neighborhood school. This is just one of the ways the students here use their time on the stage to benefit their school work.
"Discipline, learning how to take things into your own hands, and how to build yourself up as a young lady," said Malone.
The team will travel to nationals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania later this month to compete. Doing that takes money and the cost can be hard to swallow.
"When the parents first heard that number it was like oh my goodness what are we going to do?" said Grant.
Students and parents have spent the last few months raising thousands of dollars. They still have $3,000 to go. But the steppers are determined to raise it, because they already know what hard work and determination gets them.
"Once we get onstage we all have the same mindset to have fun and to win and to show everybody what we've accomplished over the couple of weeks," said Adams.
Donations can be sent directly to the school at 2201 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40212
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