By Johnny Jackson
Several young women in Ola-area schools may be stepping onto the national stage soon, according to organizers with the Ola Steppin Stangs step team.
The Ola step team is an extra-curricular school club of young students at Ola Middle School and Ola High School who compete throughout the region in step dancing.
"I have a great group of girls," said Belindia Bell-Hodge, coach of the team. "They act more like a family than a recreational team. Ola is mostly recognized for its softball and other sports teams, and most people here don't even know what stepping is, so I'm proud of them for doing it although it's not popular and widely recognized in our community."
Bell-Hodge, who is also a teacher at Ola Middle School, said the team has grown in popularity in the two years it has been in existence at the school. She said the team was recently invited to take part in half-time festivities at the 2011 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La., on Jan. 4, 2011.
While in New Orleans, the team is scheduled to participate in dance workshops, volunteer in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, and visit a local college in Louisiana, according to Nancy Tahaney, the mother of Alyssa Evans, a 16-year-old junior at Ola High School who joined the team about a year ago.
"She liked the idea of it, and now she is whole-hearted about it," Tahaney said. "It's been motivating for her. It's all about a team effort."
Tahaney and other parents are putting forth a team effort as well, to help their children raise money for their upcoming trip.
All summer, she said, the team will be conducting fund-raisers in order to earn the roughly $15,000 needed to finance the five-day trip to New Orleans.
"We recently did a fish fry that we offered to staff at the school," said Tahaney, adding that the team made about $900 during the fund-raiser.
She said there are plans to hold a Powder Puff game at the middle school, on May 12; a bake sale at the middle and high school on May 21; a car wash in McDonough on May 29; and a silent auction at the middle school on July 29.
On Saturday, the team's parents, known as the "Silver Stangs," will sponsor a benefit for the step team at the 4Citys Teen Club. Part of the proceeds from admission to the club -- located at 294 Race Track Road, Suite 109, in McDonough -- will go toward fund-raising efforts, Tahaney said.
"We are planning many fund-raisers over the coming months," Bell-Hodge said.
Parents will be sponsoring future bowling parties, roller skating parties, and other activities in support of the step team. However, Bell-Hodge said, students will be taking part as well, in a May 8 yard sale.
"We are in need of business donations, as well as private donations," she said. "We have a lot of money to raise and need all the help we can get."
The team is now in its second year of competitive stepping, and is composed of Ola students, ages 12 to 17 in grades seven through 12, Bell-Hodge said. She noted that try outs for the 20-member step squad will be held next week. "The last competition was held in March at Dutchtown High School," she said. "We came in third place. We also competed at the Ryan Cameron Step Show at Philips Arena and placed third. In January, we competed in Jonesboro and placed first."
Bell-Hodge said the team is also involved in charity outreach efforts that include community service projects like its recent shoe drive in support of the Soles4Souls and Toiletries Drive, to benefit the Atlanta Women's Shelter.
"They're hard workers and great students," Bell-Hodge said. "I'm proud to be their coach and mentor."