Stepping Into Confidence, Achievement

Jump - Under -  Clap - Back - Under - Under - Clap - Back

That’s the cadence of community in motion: unified, synchronized, and supportive. 

And that’s what the FAM – Foundation Academy’s Step Team –is all about. 

Thanks to teacher and coach Ashley Ross, Middle School scholars say they are learning much more than stomps, claps, and spins as members of this team:  

“I’ve learned that I can evolve and try new things.” 

“I learned that it’s gonna be difficult sometimes – but all you can do is learn from it.”

“I learned I can show my confidence.”

“I’ve learned not to really think about what people think about you.”

Performing as a step team has empowered these scholars inside the classroom, too. Creating routines builds peer-to-peer learning skills. Confidence turns mistakes into learning opportunities. Discipline and perseverance equips them to master a complicated step pattern – or a complicated math problem. 

“The discipline is what matters,” Ms. Ross said, recalling how the team used to say she was mean. “When you learn discipline, focus, and organization skills, that’s transferable into everything you do every day.”

The team includes 15 boys and girls in grades 6-8. The team performs in staggered lines so “no matter where you are, you are gonna be seen,” Ms. Ross said. There are no captains because “they all hold each other accountable.”

Many of the team members had never heard of the step before this year, Ms. Ross said. “They were asking me to define ‘step’ at our first practice.”

Now they are performing at FA events – and giving FA CEO Sheria McRae goosebumps.

"I love seeing our scholars being bold and trying new things,” Mrs. McRae said. “Step is another way we empower our scholars to be confident about who they are, and how they can achieve their goals when they work hard."

For Ms. Ross, this is all part of the plan. Joining FA this year as a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher, she was eager to share her passion for step with FA scholars and our community. She found an ally in MS Principal Angela Joyner – a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated – who understands the rich history of step.

Ms. Joyner, who was on a competition step team while attending Johnson C. Smith University, sees step as another platform for scholars to show creativity and express themselves. “The team has learned to build community and collaboration, creating long-lasting memories,”she said. “We are super proud to see Ms. Ross’ vision come to life!”

Indeed, they are seeing the benefits of step in the classroom. Scholars who previously complained about coming to school, look forward to step practice twice a week. Team members have made new friends, and reconciled disagreements. They speak up more in class and are more willing to keep trying when facing a challenge. 

Those are the lessons step taught Ms. Ross, and the ones she wants her team to embrace.

Growing up in Brooklyn NY, Ms. Ross began step in fourth grade, and competed at the national level at University of Buffalo. Step is a way “to lean into who you truly are,” she said, and she is proud to be building FA’s step program from the ground up. “What my teachers were for me; I want to be for my scholars.”

“I hold the team to high standards,” Ms. Ross said. “Now, they are making me proud, making their parents proud, and making themselves proud.”


Michelle Ruess