POLAND, Ohio (WYTV) - This week's Hometown Hero is Kathi Halbert, the owner and lead instructor of Kathi's Dance and Gym Center in Poland.
Halbert uses her studio to teach kids dancing and lessons they'll use for the rest of their lives.
She started dancing when she was 3 years old and decided to start teaching dance in high school at the suggestion of her guidance counselor.
"These kids need to take a class, and he said, 'Why don't you start teaching?' And I said 'OK.' And so, I started like my junior year. My first year I think I had like 33 kids," Halbert said.
Now, Halbert has between 300 and 400 kids come through her dance center during the school year.
She's a graduate of Springfield but her center is open to kids of all ages throughout the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.
Some of her former students now bring their kids.
"My Tuesday night feels like alumni night. It's like so cool... seeing them bring their kids because we really do have a lot of second and third generation starting to come in," Halbert said.
For all the work she does with kids and in the community, Halbert was also honored with the Springfield Local Alumni Award.
Her former classmates say they knew from a young age that she'd go on to do great things.
"Kathi has always been one of those children growing up that you knew was going to be successful, that was just the way she looked at life," said Zonda Haase, president of the Springfield Local Alumni Association.
After over 50 years of teaching dance and helping kids build character, Halbert gets the same excitement out of it that she did in year one.
"When you do something you really love, and I have, and I get excited! If you'd see me in September when we open up I'm actually nervous about getting started again. And, I really enjoy the kids a lot," Halbert said.
"She's so energetic! It's crazy! She's always bouncing around, she's always encouraging, the kids love her. It's amazing. She's like a role model honestly," said Megan Johnston, an instructor at Kathi's Dance and Gym Center.
After all these years of doing what she loves to help mold young minds, she has no plans of slowing down.
"I just hope that I can keep doing a good job because I don't see the end in sight close yet so... I have a lot of plans yet," Halbert said.
You can watch Halbert 's story on what makes her a 33 WYTV Hometown Hero tonight on 33 WYTV News at 11.
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