Baylor students, Waco children team up for Stompfest exhibition act

Baylor students congratulate students at Restoration Haven as practice for their Stompfest exhibition act ends Monday in the Estella Maxey public housing complex where Restoration Haven’s office is located. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Editor

By Julia Vergara | Staff Writer

Through the Philanthropy and Public Service Program, a group of Baylor students have teamed up with children from Restoration Haven’s after-school care program to create their very own stomp-show. Restoration Haven is a community support organization that provides life skill classes, counseling, advocacy, tutoring, Bible study and planned community events for residents that live in the city’s urban areas.

Students in Philanthropy and Public Service Program have been working with about 25 children — ages 5 to 15 — for the past two to three weeks, preparing for their performance at Baylor’s Stompfest in April.

Dr. Shirley Langston, a professor of Philanthropy and Public Service Program and founder and director of Restoration Haven, said this stomp show project is a win-win situation for both the Baylor students and the children.

“The students in Restoration Haven will benefit because they’re being exposed to college life, which most of them have never seen — most of their parents probably have less than a high school diploma,” Langston said. “The Baylor students also benefit because they walk away with knowledge about a culture that they never understood before.”

Langston said part of the curriculum for Philanthropy and Public Service Program students is organizing and implementing a program — a big project. In the past, students in Philanthropy and Public Service Program have hosted events in the park with themes like Easter or November Fest.

This year the students went for something completely different.

Hurst sophomore Niki Mutz originally came up with the idea for the stomp show project and serves as its coordinator.

Mutz said she is on the step team for Alpha Chi Omega and when she saw the children at Restoration Haven had dance experience, she realized what the next Philanthropy and Public Service Program project should be.

“Once I figured out that they know how to dance, I was like, ‘This has to happen; this is our final project,'” Mutz said. “So I reached out to… the Stompfest committee and I said, ‘Can I be your exhibition act for Stompfest this year?’ and they said, ‘Absolutely!’”

After that, Langston’s Philanthropy and Public Service Program class started working on the project and broke into several committees such as fundraising, choreography and costumes. For the past few weeks, the students have been going to Restoration Haven’s after-school care program every Monday and Thursday to teach the children choreography. So far, they have already learned a fourth of the show.

“These kids are talented,” Langston said. “Most of them can dance and do dance very well. It’s different when you’re just dancing on the street and in the park — you know, it’s different when you get on stage with the lights and everybody’s watching you and looking at you. I just really believe that this is so positive for them.”

Mutz said this project has facilitated a bond between the college students and children of Restoration Haven. Not only are the children receiving a positive experience with higher education, but they are also spending time with college students that genuinely care about them.

Mutz said the children’s faces light up when the Philanthropy and Public Service Program students come to Restoration Haven to help them study for school or work on choreography.

“For the kids, they need somebody to care about them because sometimes they don’t have that at home and they need that attention — And that’s really why we’re here,” Mutz said.

In addition to working with the children on their Stompfest act, the Baylor students have also been raising money to give them costumes to perform in and transportation to the event, Langston said.

Mutz said the fundraising committee has done an amazing job of getting the word out. They set up a GoFundMe account with an original goal of raising $500 and they have already reached $400.

“Our original goal was about $500 — I would like to be ambitious and double that because why not? Because everything we raise above that will go straight back to Restoration Haven,” Mutz said.