Shining STARS

A look into the STARS dance team


Photo Provided by Kate Burnes

STARS dance team about to perform at a football game.

The STARS dance team is an extracurricular activity that is developed specifically for special education students. It is a program that is mentored by members of the junior varsity and varsity dance teams. The STARS team practices once a week to learn a dance that they then get to perform at home varsity football games and basketball games. They also perform at the dance team variety show in March to end their season.

“My favorite thing about the STARS dance team is seeing STARS dancers being so excited and happy to dance every single practice and performance,” STARS Captain Kate Burnes said. “STARS dancers tell us that they look forward to STARS dance practice during the school day, and that makes me so honored to be a part of this program.”

The program was started in 2012 by varsity dance team member Bailey Baucum. She has always had a passion for peers with physical, intellectual and learning disabilities early on in her life. It was clear to her that these students had a lack of opportunities to socialize and be a part of extracurricular activities with other students. Hence, she decided to do something about it. She brought up the idea of the STARS to the varsity dance team head coach, Rachel Damlow, and the idea took off from there.

“I loved the dance team and wanted them to experience that high school experience as well,” Baucum said. “Starting STARS was one of the most defining parts of my teenage years. The dancers and families on STARS allowed me to view the world from an entirely new perspective that still affects how I treat my patients in my professional career today.”

The mentors are paired with a STARS member and dance by their side throughout the whole season. This gives the mentors and STARS the opportunity to make connections with each other and become friends by the end of the year. The STARS members get to be involved in the homecoming parade with the dance teams, have fall pictures taken and the STARS seniors get their own senior banner that is hung up with the rest of the banners at football games.

“I love watching the STARS dancers grow throughout their time on the STARS dance team,” Burnes said. “The dancers get more comfortable as the year goes on, and I love seeing them perform when they are confident with the dance routine. I personally have been a mentor to my STARS partner for the past three years, and we have formed a bond that I will forever cherish.”

Since this is one of the only extracurricular opportunities that these students have, members can always look forward to coming to practice. Even if it is just 30 minutes a week, it is a fun activity that these students can be proud to be a part of.

“My biggest takeaway from being a part of this program is that dance can unite all people and can include everyone in the community,” Burnes said.