History runs deep for Pride of the Tide

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gail Mitchell wanted to add something unique to the band performances at Picayune Memorial High School.

It was 1981 and at the time the high school didn’t have a dance program. So Mitchell, along with other interested students, formed the first  Pride of the Tide.

Ever since then Mitchell said the program has grown, both in numbers of students and the dances they can perform.

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Now Directors Shanna Kirkland and Megean Mills are responsible for the group, and they know that for the program to continue to be successful they must hold their athletes accountable.

“We hold our girls to a high standard, whether it’s their grades, etiquette or discipline,” Mills said.

That accountability teaches the athletes a variety of lessons, and one that’s emphasized is how to set an example for the younger dancers.

“They learn leadership because they teach little girls, and we want them to act like a lady and be a leader,” Mills said.

Not only are the dancers tasked with learning numerous dance routines, but Kirkland and Mills also ask the group to donate their time and engage in community service.

“The girls learn a lot about giving back to the community and working hard to raise money,” Kirkland said.

“They get a lot out of it, it’s not just dance.”

Raising money is an important job for the athletes.

In order to pay for shirts, camp fees, and other expenses that come with running a program, Kirkland tasks her athletes with conducting a number of fundraisers throughout the year in order to finance the group’s needs.

The athletes are heading into the school year after a summer that included a three-day camp, and practices on a bi-weekly basis.

The athletes have over 20 dances they can perform throughout the year, whether it’s at football games, band competitions, or shows of their own. Mills said the uniqueness of the sport is a defining trait that draws a lot of athletes to the program.

“We bring a lot of spirit, and dancing is an art,” Mills said. “It mixes athleticism with creativity.”

Not only that, but Mills said it’s vital for high schools across the nation to have programs like Pride of the Tide available to interested students.

“They can earn scholarships,” Mills said.

“There are a lot of universities out there, so it’s important that they start in high school.”

The program is now nearly four decades old, and thanks to Mitchell and the other founding members, athletes at PMHS have the chance to be a member of Pride of the Tide.

“We felt like in 1981 that they didn’t have enough things going on with band,” Mitchell said.

“Not everybody can play horn or be a majorette, so it gives opportunities to other girls who are talented.”