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How a step team at Northridge Middle School is impacting students

A CMS educator has created a safe space for girls who were overlooked at Northridge Middle School.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Not everyone who tries out for basketball or cheerleading will get a spot on the school’s team. This leaves many students without the skills of teamwork, friendship, and accountability that being in organized sports can bring.

A Charlotte educator has created a safe space for girls who were overlooked at Northridge Middle School.

You can hear their stomps and their chants vibrate through any room. The group of middle schools steppers is called Steppers of Dystinction, or SOD.

"You just get to bring all your energy," said Kamori Wright, the captain of SOD. 

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When you speak with her she is soft-spoken and timid, but transforms into a leader when she hits the stage. 

"Everyone's like a whole family together the coaches and all," Wright said. "Like it's no one judging anybody or anything."

Darren Ford, the founder of the program, is also a behavior modification tech at the school.

“Just being able to have that opportunity for them, not just to go straight home to neighborhoods, they stay after school," Ford said. "And just be involved in something that's great.

Data shows North Ridge is a Title I school with a higher-than-average number of students chronically absent and receiving suspensions.

“I talk to them and get to the root of things," Ford said. "Why, you know, why are you sleeping in class.'" 

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He says some students reply they've stayed up late babysitting. 

"A lot of people don't realize that these students go through a life outside of school," Ford said. 

Stepping keeps them engaged and teaches them about its historical significance in the Black community. Many Historically Black Colleges and Institutions (HBCUs) have their own step teams.

One SOD Dancer says the team has solidified her decision to apply to an HBCU. 

“I get to connect with my roots," said Sarae Singh. "I'm all for any type of college as long as I get my degree, my education, I'm good, but HBCU is preferable.”

The life lessons learned in the studio of their middle school will teach them life lessons they will take with them forever.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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