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High school dancers spread their art through community service

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OLATHE, Kan. -- High School dance will be in the spotlight this Friday night and Saturday night in Olathe. The Eaglettes dance team from Olathe North will perform in their annual spring show.

And sharing the stage with them will be young dancers that the Eaglettes teach who might not otherwise get to experience the art of dance.  This heartwarming community service makes the Eaglettes our FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers of the Week.

At first glance there might not seem to be anything all that unusual about this weekly dance class at Starstruck Performing Arts Center in Overland Park.  But a closer look reveals that the students taking lessons are teenagers with special needs.  And the instructors are girls their own age, members of the Eaglettes dance team at Olathe North High School.

“I love dance but I love teaching and being with these girls even more,” said FOX 4 Young Achiever Ashton Thomas.

Ashton is a junior and leads the Eaglette group that teachers the special needs dance class.  It’s a community service project of the Eaglettes, bringing the performing art that means so much to them into the lives of girls who might not otherwise get to do it.

“Not only is it awesome to see what you’ve taught them come alive on the floor,” said Ashton, “but to see the joy that they have in dancing and performing and their faces just light up and their parents` faces light up.”

While the one team of Olathe North Eaglettes instructs the special needs dance class on Sunday afternoons, another team has taken on a large group of elementary school students on Monday afternoons.  Many of the girls, and even a few boys, who are learning jazz and hip hop moves from the Eaglettes at Westview Elementary are from lower-income families and wouldn’t normally be able to afford regular dance studio instruction.  The Eaglettes teach them – free of charge.

“They all just come and give us hugs and high fives and everything,” said FOX 4 Young Achiever Meghan Dyster.  “And they talk to us about their day and we talk to them about our day.”

Meghan is a senior and she heads up the Westview dance project.  She says just like in the special needs dance class, there is much more going on between the Eaglettes and their young students than just teaching and learning technique and routines.

“I think the relationship is more important because we get to build a foundation with them,” said Meghan.  “And it's really nice.  It's a good friendship.”

“It just warms my heart because they are just so giving and so kind,” said Eaglettes coach Sara Heptig.  Heptig got the Eaglettes going in community service but she says her team members have completely embraced the projects and truly do all the work.

“It's all done by them and they have been the ones that organize the practices,” said Heptig.  “They organize the choreography.  They organize the activities that we are doing.  And so it's really given them the sense of leadership.”

Making all the right moves as leaders, role models and friends.

The Eaglettes will dance in their spring show Friday and Saturday at Olathe North High School auditorium.  Performances start at 7:00 each night.  The Westview Elementary School students will do their routines Friday night.  The special needs students take the stage Saturday night.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments.  In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.  Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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