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Dancing scholar

Kayla Grimes has begun her final year at UIndy. This year, however, will be a little bit different for her. A political science major with a concentration in pre-law, Kayla is spending a semester in Washington, D.C., learning about foreign policy at American University. The idea was an intimidating one, but how Kayla worked up the confidence to go for it is surprising.

“If I hadn’t been a Pacemate, I never would have been brave enough to apply for the Washington Semester Program,” she says. “Going to D.C. was something I had thought about several times, but I didn’t think that I could do it. After I took a chance with the Pacemates,” Kayla says, “I have the confidence to try all kinds of new things that will make me a better person.”

During the Indiana Pacers’ 2011–12 season, Kayla performed at all home games, made community appearances, and participated in photo shoots.

“I danced from sixth grade all the way through high school,” she says. “During my sophomore year of high school, my director’s daughter made Pacemates for the first time. She’d worked with my dance team as chor-eographer and assistant coach. I looked up to her so much for being able to follow her dream. That is really what got me interested in professional cheerleading.”

Getting to live her dream of dancing professionally is something she will never forget.

“The energy from the fans is amazing! You really feed off of that energy when you are performing. I would perform to a full house at Bankers Life Fieldhouse every day if I could.”

Shy girl likes the fans

“My favorite part is interacting with fans, which was really surprising to me because I am naturally a shy and quiet person. There are always a ton of people at every event and they’re excited to meet the Pacemates!”

Balancing school and Pacemates, however, is no easy feat. Both are huge time commitments and take a real toll on schedules; the Pacemate practices alone were two days a week for two and a half hours. Nonetheless, Kayla has managed to make the most of her time at UIndy. She is a member of the Honor’s College, a Writing Lab peer tutor, and, her freshman year, a member of UIndy’s Crimsonettes dance team. Her favorite thing about UIndy, though, is the campus environment.

“The campus really does feel like my home away from home now,” she says. “My favorite part of being here is the professors. I have a great relationship with all of my professors and know that I can talk to them whenever I need to. It’s great how honestly concerned they are for their students, in and out of the classroom. They really do want each student to make the best of their college experience.”

Now, thanks to UIndy and the Pacemates, Kayla is entering this academic year with newfound confidence. And after learning a lot about herself the past two years, she has some advice to offer.

“Don’t be afraid to really go after something, even if it takes hard work. College should push you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow as a person. Your views and ideas will change and be challenged daily,” she adds. “Be true to yourself and have the confidence to move forward in your life, wherever it takes you. Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Most importantly, have fun in college. It goes by way too fast to stress out too much!”

—Sarah K. Stierwalt ’13