NILES, Ohio (WYTV) — This week’s Hometown Hero takes us to the Niles Wellness Center where Stacey Emch teaches dance and baton.
Emch has been a dance and stick coach since she was just 19 years old. What started in his garage is now happening at the Niles Wellness Center.
“I started with a few neighborhood kids and my two younger sisters, and everyone would come to my garage, and my mom would cook them lunch, and I just started teaching neighborhood kids for free,” Emch said. .
Over time, Emch started charging $5 per class, and then opened her first studio at Trinity Luthern Church in 1992. She believes her studio helped bring the sport back to the area.
“It’s a bit crazy because we were able to do so much. You know, baton twirling isn’t a big sport anymore but it’s growing again, which is great. The band managers are very receptive to it and I think people love seeing it again,” Emch said.
It’s not just baton and dance that Emch teaches his students.
“It’s so important because I always tell the kids that you’re a role model and all those little girls in the stands look up to you, and you’re that girl in that sparkly costume that they want to be. So on and off the field with social media and all that stuff,” Emch said.
Her dancers, Lukea Pitinii and Megan Smith said they admired her dedication.
“She’s an amazing coach. Obviously her success has built this business for over 30 years,” Pitinii said.
“She doesn’t miss practice no matter what, whatever’s going on with her family, she makes sure to cover it and she’s in practice,” Smith said.
Emch has been able to touch many dancers during his 30-year career.
“I mean, I guess I’d estimate 5,000. At one time I had a studio in Pennsylvania and Ohio for a few years,” Emch said.
His students said the hometown hero award was well deserved.
“Stacey has sacrificed so much for us and I don’t think an amount of love or thanks or appreciation will ever show how much we truly appreciate her,” Pitinii said.