Dreams do come true. And now Keri Fleming has her sights set on helping the dreams of other young ladies become a reality.
Keri, a 2002 graduate of Granbury High School, was a member of the Stowaways drill team throughout her time at GHS. This past summer she was named the program’s new director, something she said she has long wished for.
“When I was on the drill team, I remember say- ing I have a passion for dance, and that I was going to go to college for dance, and that I was going to be Stowaways director some day,” Keri said.
But then, she has always considered herself a Stowaway, she said.
“I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything differently,” Keri said. “To be a Stowaway, and now to come back and teach these girls, it’s just an incredible feeling.
“God has his own timing. My mom was on the booster board of Stowaways. I know she’d be proud of me.”
Keri’s mother passed away in October of 2016, followed by her father in May of 2017.
“My mom put me in dance class at age 2, and I just loved it. I kept going and going,” she said. “I owe so much to her.”
Keri previously taught at Brawner Intermediate School in the Granbury ISD before moving into her new role. She was also formerly the assistant director of the Weatherford High School Blue Belles.
She’s also taught dance at Miss Vicki’s School of Dance in Granbury for 11 years. She currently teaches younger children as it would be a conflict of interest to teach older girls who might also be in her program.
“This was a dream of her and her mother, and I’m so happy for her,” said Vicki Hamrick, owner of the dance school. “She’s like my other daughter, and I’m so excited about what she’s going to do at GHS. She goes the most positive route possible for every one of those girls.”
Keri said though she knew she was qualified for the job, there were some tense moments before she officially got the news.
“I knew I could do it, but when I went to the interview I was so nervous,” she said. “And I am not a nervous person. I paced my back yard 10 miles and called everybody I know.”
Then, she got the call from GHS Principal Jeremy Ross with the good news. She was officially replacing Diane Craig, who is now the drill team instructor at Coppell High School.
Keri wasted no time in getting started, hold- ing a meet-and-greet with team members and parents. Then came the fall football season, a new school year, and the task of rebuilding the program that had 15 members in Stowaways (grades 9-12) and four in Junior Stowaways (kindergarten-up).
She said the program had about 30 members when she was involved for four years. During that time she was a social officer for one year and dance officer two years.
“I’m really all about rebuilding this team. I want all of the girls to have a passion for dance. I use that word, passion, a lot, but it’s critical to success in the world of dance,” she said.
“This year I think I want to take the Juniors to contest. They are amazing, and they deserve it. Plus, it’s good for the future of the program.”
When Keri was in the Stowaways they advanced to national competition in New Orleans. And though she said that experience was unforgettable, and the team won a national title last season, she said the focus this school year is on increasing the number of participants.
“The only pressure I put on myself is to build my team. The ones I have are so good, but we have room for so many more,” she said. “I’m not about that (nationals) right now. I want to build my program.”
She said she does plan to take the team to regional and state competition in Dallas and Weatherford. The team was also scheduled to perform during the TCU-Kansas State football game at Amon Carter Stadium in early November.
And they are learning some dance moves from a former Rockette.
“Summyr Whaley, who lives in Dallas, is a friend of mine,” Keri said. “She is amazing, and it’s so great for the girls.”
Keri married her GHS classmate Matt Fleming. They have two sons, 13-year-old Rylan and 4-year-old Hunter.
“Hunter likes to jam it out, but Rylan is a runner, like his daddy,” Keri said.
Matt was a successful cross country runner for Granbury High.
They actually did not meet in high school, however. They went their separate ways to college, and she became a member of the Texas Tech kick line for one year before the school disbanded it. She returned home and attended Tarleton State University, graduating with a degree in kinesiology.
They met after high school during an event at DeCordova Bend Country Club, where he is now the clubhouse manager.
Keri credits former Stowaways director, Heath- er Rogers with inspiring her to become a director. Rogers is now in charge of the drill team at South- west Christian High School in Fort Worth.
“She stressed morals, values, very Godly, very loving. She wanted us to look good, but feel good about it even more. I want to be like that for my girls now,” Keri said. “I remember she gave us seniors a Dr. Seuss book, ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go,’ and wrote a long, moving message.”
Rogers said she is equally excited to have one of her former pupils now be a peer in the same field.
“That is one of the most amazing feelings as a coach, to watch someone you watched grow up in this field move into your former position, I’m just so proud of her,” Rogers said. “You hope you were able to set an example for them, and that when they have the chance they’ll also touch the lives of others.”
Then she added with a chuckle, “There’s something unique and really neat about now being her peer after having coached her, but she still hasn’t gotten used to calling me Heather.”
Keri works to instill those same ethics in her participants, keeping a sharp watch on grades and ethics, including social media.
“I have high expectations, and it’s not just about dance,” she said. “Social media can be a positive light, and I monitor it. A lot of people put a negative light on it, but I think it can also do a lot of good for you.
“I’m very fortunate with this group, and how they handle business and don’t give me a reason to question them.”
Her team members are also active in the community. Among the groups they help are the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Salvation Army, and at the middle and elementary schools in town.
Along with leading the Stowaways, Keri still teaches dance physical education. She teaches ever day at GHS, along with two days each week at Granbury Middle School and Acton Middle School.
“That’s how you grow your program, the young kids and I will grow this program,” she said.
Her goals for the future of the program include doubling the participation numbers as quickly as possible, re-entering national competition, taking her team to New York City for the “Rockettes experience,” continue growing the Junior program, and “keep smiling and enjoying dancing.”
“I want to make everyone walk around with jazz hands,” she said. “Dance makes people happy.”