Everyone can express themselves through music and dance, Anna Shetler said.
A simple premise, but one that inspired the 24-year-old Hagerstonian to start Hood Hop, a youth dance program in Hagerstown neighborhoods.
"God is so much bigger than the statistics going on in Hagerstown, and he wins every time," she said. "Hood Hop has shown that."
This year's seven-week summer program of Hood Hop culminated Saturday with a dance-off on the stage at Doub's Woods Park.
At least a hundred family members and friends came to support the 120 dancers and teachers from six neighborhoods who were in the competition.
The neighborhoods included Frederick Manor, Fairgrounds, Wheaton Park, Cortland, Noland and West End, which won the dance-off.
Energy, creativity, togetherness and how well each team met the challenge it was given at the beginning of the program — such as incorporating a prop or dancing as a human machine — all factored into the judge's decision.
At the end, all of the participants came together for a dance tribute to Sept. 11, honoring all veterans and those currently serving in the military, Shetler said.
"Hagerstown needs this," said Loretta Wright, one of the competition judges.
Hood Hop is for ages 5 to 18. The program has grown to include six government housing neighborhoods during the summer, Memorial Recreation Center and Girls Inc. summer camps, and during the school year, Northern Middle School and the Victor Cullen Center, Shetler said.
It is an organized way to get and keep kids off the streets of Hagerstown by teaching confidence, teamwork and a creative means of self-expression.
"This group doesn't get enough credit," said Kelly Moreland, another one of the judges Saturday. "It is keeping kids off the streets."
"And it gets bigger every year," said Darnell Shaffer, also a judge.
Shetler started Hood Hop with 17 kids in 2004, when she was still in high school, she said. This year, about 300 kids came to Hood Hop through the various programs, she said.
"Anna does a wonderful job," Moreland said.
"She's taken kids that others had written off and given them a chance," Wright said.
Shetler said she used to pray that Hood Hop would have a building where kids would come to dance.
"But then, instead of having one building, people gave me the keys to seven," she said. "Instead of having to bring kids to one single building, we can bring dance to them."
While Shetler has gone to college and returned as a teacher at Northern Middle School, she said she never has stopped working with Hood Hop.
"She is at every hood, every week," said Jewel Bryant, another judge.
Hood Hop is about giving back to the community, said Spence, a local hip-hop artist who helped emcee Saturday's event.
It gives back by giving the kids the time, energy and love to grow up and make a difference in their communities, Shetler said.
"They realize that even though you are young, you can set an example, too," she said. "You can be a leader in your community no matter what your age."