Missouri High Steppers move forward after being denied funding
COLUMBIA - The Missouri High Steppers are on hold for now, but vow to move forward.
This past week the Columbia City Council denied the Steppers, a drill team for children based out of Columbia, the funding they're usually given for their practice space.
The founder of the Missouri High Steppers, Ronaldo Barry, said that he will look for new sponsors and a new practice space, but the Steppers will not be able to practice while it's cold outside as a result.
"The council's decision not to fund the High Steppers, I guess is a business decision on their part. We are a 501c3 organization, we are always in the process of revising our Board of Directors, trying to find those movers and shakers who believe in the program, to help us to be able to move forward with the program," Barry said. "But we're still moving. And we're still going to continue to do the work. But right now the kids are losing out."
Barry believes the funding was pulled for many reasons, one of which is the negative perception of the Steppers some may have within the city.
"We're always out looking for sponsors and supporters, but I think when you read an article in the newspaper and it says that there are issues, folks will throw a red flag up and I just want to make it perfectly clear that there are no issues as far as how we run our organization," Barry said.
Another complaint of the city council was the Steppers don't have a board of directors reporting their finances, something Barry said he is actively working on.
"Right now we have a board of directors on paper, and we're constantly trying to revise that board to find those folks who actually want to help us to move our cause," Barry said.
However, regardless of the logistics, Barry said the kids are just disappointed that they cannot practice.
"They're wondering, 'Mr. Ro, why can't we practice? 'And the kids who are older, they know what time it is, but the younger kids, they don't have any idea," Barry said.
Ultimately, his concern is being able to create a positive environment for them outside of school because of what programs like the Missouri High Steppers have done for him.
"By exposing them to that, I know that when I was exposed to it I came out disciplined, I came out - I was dedicated, well-rounded person. I had something that was a positive place for me to go, I met good friends and I see that without a building that the kids are missing out on that," Barry said.
Barry does however, remain optimistic that things will turn around.
"I'm thinking there's someone out in the community who will step up to the plate and in the meantime I'm going to continue to work and try to secure a board of directors that serious about working with the steppers," Barry said.
But until then, he says that both himself and the Steppers will continue to wait.
"We're on hold and a lot of kids are missing out," Barry said.
[Editor's Note: This story was edited to include a brief description of the Missouri High Steppers.]