Southern Miss Student Shares Her Passion for Dance in Community - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Southern Miss Student Shares Her Passion for Dance in Community Outreach

Photo credit: USM Photo credit: USM
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi senior elementary education major Laura Catherine Dawson has already found her spot at the head of a class full of students - a dance class that is. Dawson is the founder and head instructor of the Leaps of Faith dance program.  

Leaps of Faith is a school ministry born out of a partnership between the Edwards Street Fellowship, Earl Travillion Attendance Center and Dawson’s personal mission to start a free dance company.

Dawson started dancing when she was two years old. The Hattiesburg native studied classical ballet at the South Mississippi Ballet Theatre until she graduated from high school, and since then she has been an instructor at On Your Toes Dance Studio. After starting Leaps of Faith in September of 2015, Dawson realized this was not going to be a normal dance class. Her biggest challenge has been changing her students’ attitudes and mindsets.

“I realized pretty quickly there were some other lessons I was going to need to teach besides dance. I had to learn how to have better classroom management,” said Dawson, an alumna of Alpha Delta Pi sorority at USM. “I didn’t know how to make them be nice to each other and use nice words. How was I going to get them to respect themselves and be motivated?”  

That’s where her elementary education major and academic mentor, Dr. Janet Boyce, became an important resource. Dawson recalls how Dr. Boyce invested extra time and energy into making her feel more prepared, and even attended several dance classes.

“She’s been the biggest help. I am so grateful,” Dawson said.  

Teamwork is the theme of the semester for Dawson’s class. Dawson described how they are currently preparing for auditions for the Nutcracker ballet. She believes this will inspire the girls to work together to do their best so they can have a role in the South Mississippi Ballet Theatre’s performance at Hattiesburg’s Saenger Theatre in December.

“We are going to try out for it,” Dawson said, “If we can work together, be a team, set our goal and work together to reach the goal, maybe we’ll get to be in it.”  

Dawson’s ballerinas have responded to the challenge.  

“The change was immediate. Having this common goal is really uniting them,” she said.
The mother of a participant in the program described it as “an answer to our prayers.”  “One daughter wanted to do gymnastics and one wanted to do dance,” she said. “We knew we couldn’t afford both. But we got the letter about the free dance class!”

Third-grader Ariel loves being part of the program. "Miss Laura Catherine is my best friend,” she said.

As for Dawson, Leaps of Faith is a dream come true. She recently re-discovered her yearbook from her sophomore year of high school, and listed under her future goals and dreams was the desire to start a free dance program. Dawson, her 13 third-graders, and support of volunteers and donors have made that a reality. 

The current students’ dance shoes and leotards were donated from local studios, and Dawson recently received a $250 grant from the Hattiesburg Junior Auxiliary to purchase matching ballet shoes for their Nutcracker debut.

Leaps of Faith currently has a waiting list and Dawson hopes to add more students in the future, but is in no rush. “I’d rather help a small number of kids and really make a difference in their lives, than help a hundred kids and just make them happy,” Dawson said.

Copyright 2016 WDAM. All rights reserved.

  • Local NewsLOCALMore>>

  • Billy Fokakis dies after brief fight with rare cancer

    Billy Fokakis dies after brief fight with rare cancer

    Monday, January 22 2018 10:42 PM EST2018-01-23 03:42:00 GMT
    Billy Fokakis died Monday morning after a brief fight with a rare form of cancer. (Photo source: WDAM)Billy Fokakis died Monday morning after a brief fight with a rare form of cancer. (Photo source: WDAM)

    Billy Fokakis, the owner of a restaurant that’s been a staple in Hattiesburg for nearly 100 years, died Monday morning after a brief fight with a rare form of cancer.

    More >>

    Billy Fokakis, the owner of a restaurant that’s been a staple in Hattiesburg for nearly 100 years, died Monday morning after a brief fight with a rare form of cancer.

    More >>
  • 1 person shot at Collins plant

    1 person shot at Collins plant

    Monday, January 22 2018 7:29 PM EST2018-01-23 00:29:55 GMT
    1 person shot at Sanderson Farm plant in Collins. (Photo source: WDAM)1 person shot at Sanderson Farm plant in Collins. (Photo source: WDAM)

    Multiple law enforcement agencies are on scene of a shooting at the Sanderson Farm plant in Collins where one person was shot.  According to Collins Police Chief Joey Ponder, the shooting happened inside the facility around 4 p.m.  The factory was closed down while the scene was made secure according to Ponder.  He said one person was shot and transported to a local hospital with injuries, but he did not know the extent of them.  A suspect did flee the sce...

    More >>

    Multiple law enforcement agencies are on scene of a shooting at the Sanderson Farm plant in Collins where one person was shot.  According to Collins Police Chief Joey Ponder, the shooting happened inside the facility around 4 p.m.  The factory was closed down while the scene was made secure according to Ponder.  He said one person was shot and transported to a local hospital with injuries, but he did not know the extent of them.  A suspect did flee the sce...

    More >>
  • Flu kills 2-year-old MS girl

    Flu kills 2-year-old MS girl

    Monday, January 22 2018 6:45 PM EST2018-01-22 23:45:54 GMT

    Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict confirms a 2-year-old girl died at Forrest General Hospital over the weekend due to complications from the flu. Benedict said the child is from Sumrall.

    More >>

    Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict confirms a 2-year-old girl died at Forrest General Hospital over the weekend due to complications from the flu. Benedict said the child is from Sumrall.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly