Do you know what a step team is? You may think it’s a team focused on a dance form prevalent in the Black community. You wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s more: Step team is a family, it’s a path to personal growth, and it’s preparing me for college. I’m proud to be on the step team at LEARN South Chicago, a K-8 school on the South Side.
Being a middle schooler in Chicago brings its own set of challenges. It can be hard to find a safe space. My step team is a supportive haven.
Step team teaches me to express myself. Am I feeling mad? Happy? Nervous? Proud? I step it out. Like many young teens, I battle anxiety. Step team has taught me confidence and that pressure can be a good thing.
That self-esteem has helped me achieve more in school. Before step team, I wasn’t prioritizing my grades. I always avoided participating. After I joined step team, my grades improved because I had better discipline. I know how vital it is for me to commit to my practice and my teammates. They count on me. That lesson expands to the classroom; now I’m not afraid to use my voice.
Through step team, I have come to realize college is a real goal I can pursue, and it is never too early to learn about higher education and plan for it. We’ve gone to Chicago State to experience a local HBCU. I learned about the history and significance of the “Divine Nine.”
My step team is a chosen family. We’re there to lift each other up. We fall down, and we get back up. We cheerlead each other and ourselves. Our coach teaches us the beauty of being able to try without fear of failure. The values I’ve gained — persistence, trust, resilience — will carry me through middle school to college and beyond.
Every school should consider adding a step team or a similar program. If every school had activities rooted in students’ cultures and communities, bonds would be formed, education could thrive, and students would have more confidence and opportunities to shine.
Starr Reynolds, 7th grader at LEARN South Chicago
This piece was published in the Chicago Sun-Times. You can find the original link here.