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ARLINGTON -- 'Five, six, seven, eight...' called out Tearra Seal. And then the stepping, and stomping, and clapping, and slapping commenced.

She's the 11-year-old co-captain of Goodman Elementary's step team.

For two hours after school Monday through Thursday, and one hour after school on Friday, they practice. Hard.

'There's been lots of tears and sweat, that's for sure!' said coach Christy Heath. She's a math teacher who volunteers her time.

'It's a lot of fun,' Tearra said.

The step team at Arlington ISD's Goodman Elementary School is made up of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders who may be little, but they are loud and proud. Their steps and claps echo through the cafeteria and down the halls every day after school.

Their hours of hard work have finally paid off for the 'GES Steppers.' They've placed at some local and regional competitions. And recently, they received an invitation to a national one in Chicago in April.

'It made us cry!' Heath said of the coaches when they got word of the invitation. 'When we told the team, they started crying. It's a big accomplishment and something we've never experienced before.'

Many of the young team members have never left Texas.

'No I haven't!' said Emiliano Ramirez, the 11-year-old fifth grader who is the step team manager. 'So it's gonna be really fun for me!'

But there's a problem. They don't have the means to get there.

'We did find out Arlington ISD was able to pay for transportation and lodging, but we're still left with about a $2,000 bill for food,' Heath said. 'That's something our families around here are not able to shell out.'

Emiliano knows that. 'My parents can't afford it,' he said.

The GES Steppers are holding fundraisers, but don't think they can raise enough money without appealing to the community for donations. They will be leaving town April 8.

'If they can't get the money, then we're in a hard position,' Heath said. 'Either we pay it ourselves, or they don't go. That's where we come into a crunch.'

Heath said she has watched her team members become school leaders, and said they deserve this opportunity.

'Grades start coming up when they realize, 'Whoa! I'm going to be held accountable for this!' Their behavior gets better when they realize we're going to hold them accountable for behavior in class and on campus and off campus,' she said. 'I see them earn a sense of pride. They become strong and self confident.'

They've taken the first step. They just need help taking the next one.

'I really want to go to Chicago,' Emiliano said.

Anyone willing to help can e-mail Christy Heath at cheath1@aisd.net.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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