Joy in Helping Others Thrive

By Jessica Schuffenecker
If you’ve interacted with Ms. Cammie O’Hara, she likely made you feel uplifted and empowered. Ms. O’Hara radiates her light and generous spirit around our campus as the administrative assistant to the Counseling Department, a faculty and staff wellness class instructor, SARA Test Prep coordinator, an assistant in theater, moderator of Athletes taking Action, and more. Beyond her work at Strake Jesuit, she owns and operates The Dance Pointe with her daughter, Taylor. In February of 2021, the mother-daughter duo expanded their dance company by starting an inclusive dance team for individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities: EmPOWER Dance Team. When I asked Ms. O’Hara about the impetus for starting the EmPOWER Dance Team, she expressed, “Being inclusive has always been very important to me.” She believes there is a place for everyone in the arts and hopes to share her own love of dance through providing accessible avenues for all.

As a mom of two and an experienced dance instructor, Ms. O’Hara knows the importance of patience, adaptability, and flexibility—as well as the cleansing power of a good laugh. Her dancers have helped her to appreciate the gifts and limitations that we all possess. “My dancers are just like you and me,” she says. ”We’re all unique and all special in our own way.”

Despite her love of dance, Ms. O’Hara recognizes that dance is not for everyone but encourages everyone to explore interests anyway. She hones her athletes’ unique gifts through weekly practices and showcases the team’s progress with performance opportunities at local events and dance competitions. The EmPOWER Dance Team is a safe and fun environment for dancers to take chances, try something new, and discover their gifts in the process. “Everything we’ve created is a family atmosphere that empowers and encourages one another,” Ms. O’Hara says. Her beaming smile emanates her deep love for and pride of her dancers. With her words and actions, it is apparent that she finds the most joy in watching others thrive: “I think our purpose on earth is to serve others,” which she certainly does.

Ms. O’Hara’s encouragement impacts her dancers and the entire Strake Jesuit community. Noah Allen ’23 says, “Ms. O’Hara is a selfless staff member who puts the students’ needs above her own. She loves to see us succeed.” Ms. O’Hara approaches each one of our students, and her dancers, with cura personalis, or care for the whole person. She respects the talents, abilities, personalities, desires, hearts, and minds of each individual and draws out the best in us all. College Counseling Director Mr. Jeff Fuller says that Ms. O’Hara handles her many responsibilities, both inside and outside of the Strake Jesuit community, with “professionalism, grace, dedication, and compassion.” Throughout her time at Strake Jesuit, she has noticed the school’s mission grounding her. “I’ve been able to take the mission of Strake Jesuit into every other aspect of my life,” she says. “It’s a blessing I wish everybody could feel and experience.”

With imperfect yet beautiful leaps, pirouettes, chassés, and teamwork, the EmPOWER Dance Team will glean confidence that will transcend into other aspects of their lives, as well as inspire others who may be hesitant to try something new. Paving new avenues for all to experience the joy of the arts is a spiritual endeavor for Ms. O’Hara. She believes that “God wants us to be joyful; He wants us to be happy.” May we all embrace life’s joys and challenges with a servant’s heart, as Ms. Cammie O’Hara does.