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Madison Metropolitan School District

Majorette/Step Team Gives La Follette Scholars an Outlet for Creative Expression

Tijuana Fountain-Wright loves to dance.

The Chicago native and first-year MMSD student engagement specialist—serving La Follette High School and its feeder middle schools, Badger Rock, Sennett, and Whitehorse—knows firsthand the transformative impact channeling creative energy through movement can have on a young person’s life. She’s proof.

“I can remember being in fifth grade, grammar school, and feeling frustrated by my classes and schoolwork,” Fountain-Wright said. “I needed an outlet. I was interested in cheerleading, but I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do all the things that these other girls can do.’ Luckily, I had a teacher who believed in me. I’d go to her house on weekends and she’d teach me how to flip, do the splits, all those things. Eventually, I built up enough confidence to try out, made the team, and it’s been my passion ever since.”

Recognizing herself in the young women she mentors, Fountain-Wright, who’s affectionately known around the building as “Miss T,” established a step/majorette squad at La Follette shortly after the start of the school year. In partnership with Madison School & Community Recreation, she started the team with four scholars, then quickly expanded membership to include seven other girls. One of that “core four” is captain Destiny Walker, and for good reason.

“Miss T is my auntie,” Walker shared. “She asked me to help lead the group because I’ve got a background in dance, having competed with the LHS squad as a freshman and now being a part of the Dynamic Badgerettes, a local majorette group that includes girls from other city schools.”

Though Walker was enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing step/majorette to La Follette, some of her prospective teammates were a little more skeptical.

“When I first put this to them, it took some convincing, because many of them didn’t understand what stepping was,” said Fountain-Wright. “I told them they had to give it a try for at least a month. If they wanted to quit after that, they were free to, but none did—they came to love it and no one wanted to leave. In addition to being a productive use of our time together, this program has allowed us to form stronger relationships than we otherwise might have, and it’s been a way for me to hold them accountable.”

The team—which meets twice weekly for practices that typically run two to three hours—made its public debut just before winter break, performing a routine during La Follette’s staff-versus-scholars volleyball game. That performance marked the first time many of the team members had ever done a routine for anyone but themselves.

“It wasn't my first time dancing in public, but it's different when you’re doing it for your friends at school,” said senior co-captain Ashzianna Alexander. “I never really got into cheerleading or being on the dance team, because I felt like it wasn't for me, but actually being able to showcase what I actually love to do is a different feeling—it's a rush. I was scared, but once I started dancing, it was over.”

It’s a feeling she’ll be able to replicate a few times over the coming weeks, as she and her fellow majorettes/steppers are slated to share time with La Follette’s cheerleading and dance teams at upcoming home basketball games. Fountain-Wright hopes girls at other MMSD schools will soon be able to have that feeling, too: she aspires to expand the program beyond La Follette’s walls for the 2023–2024 academic year, because she knows the need and the demand are there.

“I always wanted a place where I felt comfortable, where I could be myself—where I and others like me could express ourselves in a way that we can't when we’re at home or outside of school,” said Alexander. “Building something new for the school, something that people will be able to benefit from even after I’ve graduated, has been a fun experience, and it’s one that I’m glad I got to be a part of.”

Walker agrees: “The best thing has been building this community. We’ve had our ups and down, for sure, but now it’s like, we’re one big family. I’m looking forward to growing, and helping the other girls, especially the younger ones, grow, too.”

Thanks to the efforts of one dedicated district staffer, she’ll have that opportunity.

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