Meet Idaho teen Este who has a passion African dance. Being on an African dance team has allowed her to create strong friendships, inspire other girls, and volunteer in the Treasure Valley.

“My mom tells me that, from the day they brought me home from Liberia, I was dancing,” laughs Este, an Idaho teen fresh out of high school.

When asked at 9 or 10 if she wanted to participate on a dance team, she responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” Fast forward 10 years later and Este’s still on the same team, bubbling over with love and passion for her coach, teammates, and dance.

The team, called the Makatas Dancers, is led by a Liberian woman named Joetta who is passionate about sharing the traditional dances of her home country as well as uplifting girls and the Treasure Valley community.

“I didn’t even know there was Liberian dancing or African dancing until I met Joetta,” says Este. “I was so excited to learn about my heritage and my people.”

The Makatas schedule is intense, to say the least. The girls usually practice three times a week, often for three or four hours at a time. That didn’t deter Este; in fact, being able to connect with other girls made the long practices something to look forward to.

“Before we start practice, we sit in a circle and Joetta asks us how our day was, or what we did that weekend,” shares Este. “That helps build a bond between each and every girl. And, so, practice isn’t really hard then—it’s just fun. I mean, it is hard—your toes are sore the next day—but definitely always fun.”

During dance season, Este puts in extra time to perfect the routines.

“I go into my dad’s shop and practice my dances nonstop,” Este says. “And when I’m practicing, I’m so happy. I just think, ‘I’m gonna get good at this.’”

Este feels a sense of accomplishment each time she masters a new dance, and loves putting a smile on people’s faces at Makatas’ performances. She also raves about the relationships she’s gained from being involved in the team.

She particularly looks up to one to former dancer, Joetta’s younger sister Naomie, for her dancing talent as well as her dedication to her faith and inspiring others to be good people.

“I want the younger girls to think of me like I do of Naomie,” Este says. “I want them to come ask me questions about the dance and then I teach them, and then we laugh. I want to be inspiring, to tell them that you can follow your dreams, that you can be amazing, and that even though it gets rough sometimes, you don’t have to fall into a bad line or follow bad people. You can be who you are and who God wants you to be.”

Joetta, too, instills a sense of responsibility in the girls to help in their community. The team can often be seen raking lawns, serving in a soup kitchen, or other service projects.

“Even when I’m not with Joetta, I feel like I am because when I see someone in need, I think, ‘I want to help that person’—and then I try to,” Este says.

The team has also helped her feel confident being onstage and trying new activities like singing and acting in school plays. She has a dream to one day be an actor, and is currently set to join the Air Force; she’ll leave in the fall for basic training.

“Be true to yourself, enjoy yourself, and make good friends who show you the true light. Follow your heart and follow who you want to be, not who someone else wants you to be.

When something is hard, keep pushing yourself through it and following the path that God wants you to follow.”