GLEN ELLYN — When Hadley Junior High School seventh grader Rachel Nufer signed up for the school's Let's Dance program, she had some reservations.
"I was kind of nervous, and I didn't know what to expect," Rachel said.
But even amid her nerves, Rachel was excited, too. Her sister had taken the class in the past, so she gave Rachel a few pointers.
Mostly, though, Rachel signed up because her mom wanted her to. And after taking a few classes, she was glad she listened to her mom.
"By the second week, I was excited to go back," she said.
The Let's Dance program has been offered at Hadley Junior High School in Glen Ellyn for several years, although instructor Marilyn Fredericks of Elmhurst was hesitant to disclose when exactly she started teaching the class, only saying it had been "a while."
Fredericks did say, however, that she has been able to teach sets of younger and older siblings, such as Rachel and her older sister Hannah, now a sophomore at Glenbard West High School.
The eight-week Let's Dance program is offered to Hadley seventh and eighth graders on Tuesday evenings from January until March. During each class, students learn classic ballroom dances such as waltz, foxtrot, rumba, swing and tango while dressed in their fine evening attire, in accordance with Fredericks' dress code. They also receive lessons in etiquette.
"You don't get this kind of dress, manners and etiquette nowadays," said Rachel's mom, Rebecca Bruton Nufer, who also serves as one of the seventh-grade chairs for the program.
Prior to teaching Let's Dance at Hadley, Fredericks taught the program at other schools in the area. These include Sandburg Middle School in Elmhurst and Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove.
This year, about 69 seventh graders and 68 eighth graders participated in Let's Dance, Rebecca said.
As a chair, Rebecca helped to organize which families would bring snacks to each class, actually playing an important role in students' etiquette lessons.
When it's time to have a snack at Let's Dance, male students escort female students to the snack table. Afterward, the boys throw away their own — as well as their partners' — plates, napkins and cups.
Fredericks said that seeing 12-year-old boys wear ties and take on this kind of responsibility is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
"I couldn't be more proud or gratified myself," Fredericks said. "I'm the luckiest person in the world."
Even Rachel said she's noticed a difference in some of her male classmates since the program ended March 19.
"Some of the boys are a little calmer, less loud," she said.
Rachel said she definitely plans to take the class again next year. Her initial hesitance but eventual appreciation for Let's Dance is common in students, Fredericks said.
For her part, Fredericks loves being able to empower students by increasing their confidence through the Let's Dance program.
"I have so much heart for the program," Fredericks said. "It's so rewarding, I can't even put it into words. It makes my heart dance."