By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader
Tami Reynolds, a teacher at Gary Lighthouse Charter School, started the Steel City Superstars in 2000 as an activity for boys and girls in Northwest Indiana who ranged in ages 5 to 27. Reynolds began twirling a baton early in life before she went on to college to become a teacher. Her group eventually grew to over 75 young people that she taught to single jump rope, double dutch and pom-pom routines. Since they have been performing they have developed seven routines.
Because they have done so well in various competitions they are now qualified to compete on the national level to be held in Canton, Ohio on July 9-15. The 34 members will compete in baton twirling, single rope and double dutch and pom-poms. They will then go on to Orlando, Florida to perform at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
The Steel City Superstars, a non-profit program, have won countless local, state and regional level competitions. The program was initially designed to allow children of the Northwest Indiana area to learn how to twirl a baton, jump double dutch or learn single jump rope skills while building self-esteem and self-confidence.
The children in this program are 89% African-American students, which reside in an inner-city neighborhood setting where at least 94% of the school children are eligible for free lunch, which means that their family’s income is at/or below the poverty level. Each member must meet two requirements: hold at least a “C” average in academics and not miss more than one practice per month.
The program is the only one of its kind in Northwest Indiana. It is designed to give inner-city children a positive and safe atmosphere, through the development of competitive performance skills.
According to its records, during the first grading period of the 2002/2003 school year, 34% of the members were placed on academic probation. After starting a peer-tutoring facet, the number of members on academic probation dropped to less than 13%. To date this facet has lowered the academic probation level to less than 5%. It has allowed children to experience other cultures and regions of the United States by interacting with various children through the common bond of baton twirling and jump roping.
The Steel City Superstars are based on a 100% volunteer system. Reynolds, (founder/director/coach of each facet) donates an average of 30 hours per week to the organization. Sarah Jordon, Tina Harrison and Erika McNeal also donate an average of 20 hours per week, as “behind the scenes” help. On a consistent basis 20-40 parents eagerly assist the director and coaches, as well as various teams.
The Steel City Superstars are currently holding a fundraiser to support their trip to Ohio. The fundraiser is called “The National Spirit Book.” Ads are being collected to wish the group good luck or advertise a business. All proceeds from the ads will go straight to the children’s savings account. Prices for the ads range from $24.99 and below for Good Luck Lines to $200 for a full page.
There is also support needed for the National Competition to be held in Ohio. All financial support will be recognized in the National Contest Souvenir Book, as well as in the annual yearbook. Donations can be sent to Steel City Superstars, Attn: Tami Reynolds, Founder/Director, 1610 West 52nd Place, Merrillville, IN 46410.