NILES, Ohio (WYTV) — This week’s Hometown Hero takes us to the Niles Wellness Center where Stacey Emch teaches dance and baton.

Emch has been coaching dance and baton since she was just 19 years old. What once started in her garage now happens at the Niles Wellness Center.

“I started with a couple of neighborhood kids and my two younger sisters, and everyone would come over in my garage, and my mom would make them lunch, and I just started teaching the neighborhood kids for free,” said Emch.

As time went on, Emch started charging $5 a class then she opened up her first studio in the Trinity Luthern Church in 1992. She believes her studio has helped bring the sport back to the area.

“It is kinda crazy because we’ve been able to do so much. Ya know, baton twirling is not a very big sport anymore but it is growing again which is great. Band directors are super receptive about it, and I think people love to see it again,” said Emch.

It’s not just baton and dance that Emch teaches her students.

“It’s so important because I always tell the kids that you’re a role model and all those little girls in the stands are looking up to you, and you’re that girl in that sparkly costume that they wanna be. So on and off the field with social media and all that kinda thing,” said Emch.

Her dancers, Lukea Pitinii and Megan Smith said they admire her dedication.

“She’s an amazing coach. Obviously, her success has built this company for 30 years plus,” said Pitinii.

“She does not miss practice no matter what, anything going on in her family, she makes sure she covers it and she’s at practice,” said Smith.

Emch has been able to reach many dancers over her 30-year career.

“I mean I guess I would estimate 5,000. At one time I had a studio in Pennsylvania and in Ohio for a couple of years,” said Emch.

Her students said the hometown hero award is greatly deserved.

“Stacey has sacrificed so much for us and I don’t think any amount of love or thank you’s or appreciation will ever show how much we really appreciate her,” said Pitinii.