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Visions dancers embrace the “each one teach one” philosophy. (Courtesy Photo)

Deborah Stewart-Akles has been involved with dance all her life. She started at age 7, at the Marie Allen Watts School of Dance. By age 15, she began training to teach, often teaching her peers and younger students during her free time. Fifteen years ago this June, she took her experience and training in an expanded direction, opening Visions, a Christian school of etiquette and dance. The school is located at 8001-B Harford Road, Parkville, Md.

Through mentorship, teaching, witnessing and dance, Stewart-Akles teaches leadership and etiquette to build self-expression, self-esteem, and self-empowerment in her students, that currently range in age from three to the teens, and one 73 year old. Through her program, many students go onto higher education dance programs.

“I think the teenage group is the most fulfilling to me. There is no greater feeling than to be able to make a difference in the lives of children by being a role model for them through living God in front of them,” says Stewart-Akles.

Visions is described by Stewart-Akles as one big family with generations of community as its members.

“Visions is very family oriented. Over the years I have become everyone’s Aunt Debbie, so the same way that they are held to a certain standard by me, I am held at a certain standard by them; practice what you preach,” says Stewart-Akles.

Deborah Stewart-Akles. (Courtesy Photo)

Visions embraces the “Each one Teach one” philosophy, encouraging young people 14 – 16 who are excelling, to become junior instructors and mentors to other students.

Leadership skills and etiquette are embedded in the school’s philosophy. “I can identify with self-esteem, self-worth and self-value, and all the insecurities that all young girls experience growing up. So while dance is important for their self-expression, I believe the etiquette courses are valuable to their sense of self-worth,” Stewart-Akles said.

Prayer and devotion are also vital factors of the school’s philosophy so every class starts with prayer and ends with benediction.

Visions performs two recitals per year allowing students to feel their goals are being accomplished. In total, Visions has performed 32 dance recitals. Some performances have moved audience members to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Ministering through dance, the school has extended the word of God to others throughout Maryland by performing at civic and political events. Additionally students have collaborated and fellowshipped with other dance organizations and churches.

Stewart-Akles was recognized in 2013 and 2014 for outstanding dance instruction in Parkville. Additionally, Stewart-Akles was nominated for the Trailblazer Award, to be presented to the winner March 22 at the Forum by Maggie Anderson