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Area youth stay out of trouble with Expose

By By Matthew Nascone
The amount of negative influences on youth in today's society is endless, but eight years ago Escambia County High School bookkeeper LaShonda Marshall formed the Expose Dance and Step program.
The program is supported by the Escambia County (Alabama) Board of Education and the squad practices four days a week in the lobby of Escambia County High School. Expose is part of the Escambia County Board of Education After School At Risk program.
"I started this program in 1998 to give the young girls in Atmore something to participate in if they are not involved with anything at their school," Marshall said. "And we have an open door policy. Anyone who would like to participate from kindergarten to 12th grade is welcome."
When the girls are not dancing or stepping at ECHS, they are out in the community helping others. Marshall said in the past the girls have helped out at the nursing homes in town, participated in Toys for Tots and performed at any of the surrounding schools that asked them to come.
The group of girls is a diverse group from all the elementary schools, Escambia County Middle School and Escambia County High School. The All-Star Dance Team participates in many competitions each year.
Marshall said coaching that squad is a lot of fun. But the girls involved with the squad have their own opinions as well.
"I believe this program is good for young girls because it keeps us from doing something we will regret in the long run," dancer Treasure Fay said.
There are other benefits to the program as well.
"I think it motivates us and teaches us how to work together and be part of a team," Josulyn Marshall said. "And I love the dancing because it makes me feel free."
LaShonda Marshall's daughter, Michaela Norman, has a slightly different take on the whole experience.
"It keeps us out of trouble and as my mom always says, it makes us, as young ladies, be seen and not heard," Norman said. "And of course, it is a great workout."
The Expose program included 12 girls back in '98. Now the squad has grown to more than 70 girls and Marshall said she has found a way to bring more girls into the program.
"You have to tap into the kids world so you can learn what they want to do," she said. "And when you do that, they will learn so much faster."