Life Skills

July 27, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

Members of the Washington County Show Kids and Show Company can do some amazing things with a baton such as twirl it around their necks, toss it under a leg and catch it twirling, and twirl two batons at once.

Amongst all the baton-twirling, dancing, singing and acting, the youths have learned intangible lessons that will last throughout their lives.

Teamwork was often mentioned by Show Kids members, including Megan Heller, 12, of Boonsboro. Even though they each have to learn the skills involved, they perform as a unit and often toss batons to each other.

Jennifer Mumma, 13, of Hagerstown, says the youths have each other's backs whether someone messes up or not.

"We don't yell," she said. Instead they joke around to make the person who slipped up happier.

That positive attitude emanates from their teacher, Brenda Cauffman, who founded Show Kids in 1988.

"She really tries to make it fun for everybody," said Christy Walton, 18, of Boonsboro.


Christy has learned to take it easy on herself and not be so critical of her mistakes. Walton started taking baton-twirling lessons a year ago.

Chris Deckert, 10, of Boonsboro, said he's learned discipline and to be nicer when showing a fellow student how to do something. Chris carries the team banner at parades and is in the color guard.

That behavioral influence came from Cauffman, who tells her students nicely, rather than screamingly, when they are doing a move wrong, Chris said.

Tasha Kane, 11, of Mercersburg, Pa., has learned to think more positively about herself thanks to Show Kids.

"When you go on the floor you're really nervous," Tasha said. Having a positive attitude boosts her confidence.

Self-esteem is just one thing Cauffman says she's trying to teach the youths.

"I really believe that integrity, character, being able to work with others is really valuable no matter what you do in life," Cauffman said.

Cauffman also emphasizes the importance of Christian values.

"Whether we win the trophy or not, we have to like ourselves," Cauffman said.

Rocky Willis, co-director of the Silver Starlettes, based in southern Washington County, also teaches her students about being a good sport whether they win or lose.

Her students also learn to work as a team and learn about responsibility, said Willis. Starlettes activities include baton twirling, rifle twirling, flag twirling, honor guard presentation, military step drilling and drumming.

Haley Sweigert, 12, of Fairplay, says she practices at least four to five times a week. But she doesn't resent the long practice hours, because she gets better.

Between Show Kids and singing for Boonsboro Middle School's chorus, Taylor Forman, 10, said she's learned about the value of commitment. All of the practicing means she's missed watching her favorite TV shows on Nickelodeon, but Taylor said she'd rather spend the time at Show Kids where she's made friends and where she's having fun.

"It's just like any other activity you want to do. You have to persist if you want to get anywhere with it," said Megan Deckert, 13.

There are 43 boys and girls involved in Show Kids. The eight who performed at international Twirl Mania Championships at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year all came home with trophies. The team won two first-place team trophies. Three team members won individual first-place honors.

The public performances help with confidence and with overcoming shyness, parents said.

Megan Deckert's mother, Pam Deckert, said performing with Show Kids has helped Megan with public speaking and presentations at school.

"She's gained a lot of poise and confidence over the years," Pam Deckert said.

"Brenda's very good about bringing them out of their shell," said Jessica Fox, Tasha Kane's mom.

One other thing they've learned: how to make new friends.

Willis said the friendships the youths make through these organizations can last a lifetime.

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