March 27, 2014

By Meghan Rowe, Staff Writer

Student & Dance Instructor Ashley Ferrence  (courtesy of Ashley Ferrence)

Student & Dance Instructor Ashley Ferrence (courtesy of Ashley Ferrence)

 The hustle and bustle of the Fitness and Recreation center on the University of Maine Farmington (UMF) campus may seem like a run of the mill fitness center, but for some students it’s a place of personal development and unique opportunity.  At first glance the vast space seems as though it’s only consumed by people sweating profusely on bikes, ellipticals and running on the track, but for Ashley Ferrence it’s a place for continuing a lifelong passion and preparation for the future.

   “Make sure your bellies are tight and your feet are pointed!” shouted Ferrence enthusiastically to her eight young dance students as she proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to cross kick; a smile never leaving her face.  Ferrence is a sophomore psychology major at UMF with a concentration in community health.  Ever since the week students returned from February break she has held weekly Monday dance classes for young After School Program (ASP) kids from the local elementary schools.

   Ferrence has been dancing at the same studio in Lisbon, Maine since the young age of three years old when she discovered the passion through her eight-year-old big sister.  When she came to college last year she discovered just how hard it was for her to stay involved with her passion on campus.“Since highschool I left behind that huge part of my life.  I’ve been teaching and student teaching at the studio I went to for 13 years, but obviously I had to stop when I was here,” said Ferrence.

   Due to Ferrence’s spirited initiative, the class started up swiftly.  “ I literally went into Leah’s office and was like ‘listen, I’ve been dancing forever and I’d really like to start teaching’ and Leah was like ‘stop!’ she was nearly crying” said Ferrence.  “‘I’ve been looking for someone to run a dance class for the ASP.’  So then we got it started.”

   Ferrence has had other dance experiences at UMF, though teaching has become more of a passion for her.  “At this point in my life, teaching little kids how to express themselves through dance is much more important than actually dancing myself”.

    Ferrence discussed further that without the FRC she wouldn’t be able to teach her own dance class because to teach at a studio one must be certified.  The opportunity that the FRC has given her has “really opened up doors” for her future. As a prospective elementary school guidance counselor Ferrence wanted to, “work with kids and teach them how to express themselves through dance,” while here at UMF, and the connection to the FRC has allowed her to do just that., “I think it’s nice that UMF and the FRC are so closely related so that the FRC can give the UMF students an opportunity like the one I’m having because it applies to school and my major and where I want to go in life.”

   “Ashley obviously saw this place as a resource to her as a UMF student…The Fitness Center is a really great place where you see the community and the college come together,” said Leah Brackett, the FRC Assistant Director, and overseer of the ASP.  Brackett emphasized that for student employers of the FRC, getting to know community members is a way to network and may offer numerous possibilities for the futures of those involved.

   For Ferrence, the growth and development opportunities that UMF has provided her with have been a saving grace.  “I know I’m going to be teaching the rest of my life. I went one semester without dance and I was literally dying.  I trained myself to use dance as my outlet and it literally means the world to me.  I don’t know anything else; I don’t write, I don’t read, I dance.”