Ottira Fontaine will be graduating from Cabrini in May of 2019. She is a psychology major with a triple minor in gender and body studies, black studies and criminology. During her senior year she also won the title of Miss Cabrini during the 2018 pageant. However, her most proud achievement was the creation of iCavsStep, Cabrini’s step team.
Inspiration for iCavsStep
Starting off with a team of only 5 girls, Fontaine had a vision to start a club that embodied Cabrini’s diversity initiatives.
“While Cabrini is a diverse campus, there were not a lot of diverse activities so my main goal was to do something that could be enjoyed by people of all different cultures,” said Fontaine. “Stepping is of African descent and I wanted to educate people on that and push that message. It originally started during slavery. Slaves were not allowed to talk or they would get beaten so step came into play as a means of communication.”
The name iCavsStep originally began as ‘iStep’ but “cavs” was later added to make the name not only more synonymous with the university but also the values that come with being a Cavalier.
Impacts of the step team
When asked to summarize the mission of the step team, Fontaine described that the team was “open for all.” She hopes that students can utilize the team as a safe space for no matter their ethnicity, gender identity or background. The step team also has a “no experience required” policy and welcomes steppers of any skill level.
Despite only being the team’s first year in operation, iCavsStep was recognized by Cabrini as the organization of the year in 2018. Fontaine is incredibly proud of how well-received the team has been among students and hopes to continue growing it’s popularity.
While the presence of the step team has had an impact on the student body, it has also impacted Fontaine personally as well.
“It was an eye-opener to go from dealing with no one to working with a lot of girls,” Fontaine said. “We now have about 30 girls on the team. I made amazing relationships. I’ve been a mentor to them and they’ve really touched my heart. They’ve helped me learn how to better help them.”
Fontaine recalls being incredibly introverted as a freshman, describing herself as “not very involved.” Starting the step team forced her to leave her dorm room more and has allowed her to build strong relationships with girls from all races, age groups and backgrounds.
The future of the team
Following graduation, Ottira will be returning to assist with coaching. She hopes that a year from now, the team will be competing on a national level and putting Cabrini’s name on the map.
“Ten years from now I can see the team being an elite squad,” Fontaine said. “I honestly hope the team continues pushing for more diversity as well. I want all races to feel comfortable with [step] and be educated on what it is. My vision is not to push people to come out just to step but to also do things like community service.”
As the team continues to grow, Fontaine warns future steppers to be conscious of how they handle time management. One of her biggest challenges when starting up the team was getting members to stay committed. While she encourages students to always put their education first, she also believes that with hard work it is always possible to find balance.
Words of advice to the new president
“Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. Have fun. Don’t get nervous. When times get rough, let it go. Whatever happens, happens and at the end of the day you’re still gonna perform well and do your best.”
Ottira’s favorite step team memory was their end of the year banquet. Seeing all the girls on the team getting recognized for their hard work made her incredibly proud. Fontaine is especially proud of the many freshman on the team for having the courage to try something new despite the stress that comes with starting college.
“My girls surprised me with a hoodie that said “founder” on it and it made me cry because it really hit me that I’m graduating and my babies are gonna miss me. Although I’m still gonna be there, I am giving the team off to someone else. It’s definitely gonna be hard for me to let go and let them do their own thing.”