County stars will dance for schools
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 4, 2010 1:46 PM
Debbie Grady's role as an educator might soon be coming to end -- she retires Dec. 1.
But that doesn't mean her efforts to replenish the county's teaching pools will stop.
For the past six years, she has served as coordinator of ECU Partnership East at Wayne Community College, a teacher education program helping students complete their bachelor's degrees on the local campus.
About 18 months ago, she took up a new hobby -- ballroom dancing.
So when it came time to brainstorm ideas for a fundraiser to benefit education in Wayne County, her newfound interest seemed the perfect match.
Dancing with the Wayne County Stars, based on the popular TV show that has already been a successful fundraiser in other communities, was pitched to Wayne Education Network and Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
The suggestion was well-received, with Ms. Grady secured to chair the event. Dr. Charles Zwerling, owner of Top Hat Studios, and his wife, Melissa, will serve as co-executive producers.
A date has been set for the event, as recruitment efforts for contestants kicked off this week, Ms. Grady said.
"We have invited various people from the community who are in leadership positions and are well-known," she said. "We hope that many of them will sign up to become one of our Wayne County stars. They will be paired up with an instructor, who will work with them on a dance, then compete at the gala event."
Ideally, the effort will elicit between 20 and 24 participants, she said. Top Hat Studio will provide rehearsal space and instructors to choreograph the dances.
It's going to be a "big production," Ms. Grady said, with voting to be comprised of 50 percent people's choice and 50 percent from the judges.
"Everyone will be able to vote online beginning Jan. 1," she said.
Votes will be sold for $10 each, online or the night of the event.
The gala is planned for Saturday, March 26, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Walnut Creek Country Club.
"We're hoping to sell 400 tickets, $100 each, which includes a sit-down dinner and the show," Ms. Grady said. "Then at the end, we'll have an hour with a D.J. so that everyone can dance."
It's going to be a wonderful community program, she noted, involving all areas of the county working together to participate in a fun evening as well as a worthwhile cause.
"The money raised will be used to fund the projects that we have through the Wayne Education Network, which includes teacher mini-grants in the classrooms, funding for the seventh grade career fair, funding for the Junior Leadership program and we also want to start something new -- scholarship funds for those students who are pursuing a teacher degree at one of our colleges and then come back to Wayne County to teach," she said. "We had something like that years ago but it was discontinued. We hope to begin that again.
"We want to use this gala event as the main fundraiser for these scholarship events because we do need teachers in this area and people need financial assistance, and if we can get students to come back to teach in Wayne County it will be worth it."
Ms. Grady said she is particularly excited about the fundraiser because of what it can mean for potential educators.
"I feel we need more teachers in our area and one of the barriers is finances," she said. "I'm dedicated to what Wayne Education Network is doing, connecting the businesses and our business leaders in the community with education and I feel like these projects do make a difference in students' lives. It's all a worthwhile cause and certainly worth my time."
Anyone interested in participating in the dancing event is invited to contact Ms. Grady at 739-7012 or Janet Brock at the Chamber at 734-2241.