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UTM Alumni and Step Crew pulls community together

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 17:02

The Martin Housing Authority Crossroad Teen Center put on a step show Friday night at the Martin Middle School gymnasium. The Teen Center’s Step Crew hosted the show. This was the main event to launch their first Step Crew Entertainment Founders Week, which began on Sunday, Jan. 20.

The Teen Center Step Crew put on the performance under the direction of Ray Cheney, a UTM alum and former Alpha Phi Alpha Tau Psi Chapter president.

Cheney began volunteering at the Teen Center with hopes of mentoring teens in the community. He never imagined, that by volunteering at the center it would lead to him also doing something that he loved, which was stepping. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Cheney decided to remain in the Martin area. Cheney felt God had a bigger plan for his life and that plan was to serve.

In October of 2011, a few of the teens witnessed the NPHC Step Show held here on UTM campus and wanted to learn how to step. Cheney put out a flier announcing a step rehearsal for any teen who was interested. He called it Stepping With The Teens. This would be a great way for him and his fraternity brothers to give back to the community.

“It started at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday. The kids couldn’t do it well, but they loved it,” Cheney said.

The Alpha’s hosted an I Am Legend award ceremony where they would be giving back to the campus as well as the community. Cheney wanted the teens to showcase their skills.

“They did an amazing job. After that it just skyrocketed,” Cheney said.

As the program assistant of the Teen Center, Cheney is responsible for helping the teens with their homework. He holds them to a commitment of maintaining a GPA of 2.75 or above in order to remain a part of the Step Crew. Another criteria for the Step Crew is community service.

“Our motto is, 'Serve first, step next.' This whole week has been aimed around community service and family involvement,” Cheney said.

“The Step Crew has opened a whole new light upon the teen center and the work Ray is doing with the step crew has increased our numbers and has also gained us some positive responses from the community,” said Grant Harper, Teen Center Coordinator.

The community proved Harper to be correct. It was a sold out show. The showcase had performances by Corey Smith, UTM Dance major, the Tau Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., Step Crew Entertainment Beta, Junior Step Crew, The PowerCircle and a conclusion from the Step Crew Entertainment in Martin, Tenn.

You could feel the support in the room. The energy that filled the gymnasium gave the teens a sense of encouragement and strength as they displayed what they had worked so hard on for months.

The Step Crew, who without a doubt knows the meaning of giving back, presented an award to one of the first members of the step crew, Trey Tipton of Martin, Tenn.

“The highlight of being a part of the Step Crew was simply being taught to appreciate something that not everyone was able to be a part of, to help the community in ways that they were unable to help themselves and to touch the lives of people who needed it most,” Tipton said in a write up that he read to the Step Crew.

For Information about volunteering for the Teen Center, contact Grant Harper at or 731-588-4111.

For more information about the Step Crew, contact Ray Cheney at 901-581-5845.

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