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BHS Alumna Danielle Walden's Four-Year Journey at WVU and with Dance Team Nearing its Conclusion

By Jeff Toquinto on March 03, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Danielle Walden remembers it like it was yesterday. Graduation had just ended at Bridgeport High School and the brand new alumna was unlike probably everyone single member of her 2014 graduating class that day. Walden had to leave.
 
It wasn’t because she didn’t like her classmates or had her fill of high school life. Instead, she wanted to continue doing something at West Virginia University that she had done during her time in the Bridgeport school system – and that was be a member of the Mountaineers’ dance team.
 
There was, however, a problem.
 
“Our high school graduation was the same day as the tryout. Graduation went from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the tryout was from noon to 6 p.m., said Walden. “As soon as I got my diploma and my classmates left the field, I took quick picture and was off to Morgantown”
 
Walden said it a frantic trip. She said she had to get out of her graduation gown and into proper dancing attire in the vehicle. She was aware that she leaving behind one phase of her life and immediately stepping into another.
 
“It was kind of unique to think about how that happened. I’ve always looked at it as a time when one door closed and another door immediately opened,” said Walden. “Everything that I did that graduation day proved to be worth it.”
 
A big reason was that she not only made it to the tryout, but made it on the team. That set the stage for an incredible four-year journey with the dance team as well as so many other opportunities that will soon conclude with a degree and, hopefully, a start in her new profession.
 
Ironically, Walden didn’t dream of dancing in her earliest years. Instead, she was motivated to get into the field later when something arrived at her house and she took notice of it.
 
“I looked in the Bridgeport newspaper when I was in elementary school and saw that the middle school danceline team won the county competition and I thought that it was something I’d like to do,” said Walden. “
 
The first step was to get enrolled in dance classes. She learned early under Staci Cadalzo in Clarksburg.
 
“She is the one who enhanced what I was doing from something I was interested in to something I loved,” said Walden.
 
The early lessons paid off. She made the danceline at Bridgeport Middle School, but when she entered high school she stepped away for a few years. As a freshman and a sophomore at Bridgeport High School, she was a member of the band’s frontline. Then, as a junior she tried out for the danceline coached by Cindy Timms Pulice and the love for dancing was renewed.
 
“I liked it so much that it led me to audition for WVU. It was extremely nerve wracking for more than just the time frame. It’s a two-day audition and I remember that first day audition was from noon to 6 p.m.,” she said. “I’m so glad that I decided to do it.”
 
Walden has been performing at all the home football games, as well as the home WVU men’s and women’s basketball games. But there’s much more.
 
“We do a bunch of community service events and we travel to do different parts of the state to try and bring the dance team experience to as many areas as possible,” said Walden. “I particularly enjoy the community events.”
 
While doing that, Walden has managed to find the time to excel in her career path of nursing. She’ll be graduating in May.
 
“My grandmother was a nurse and I was always interested in health care. I joke and tell people my parents run away from blood and I run toward it,” joked Walden. “The actual reason is that I loved the opportunity it provides for a career and it’s a career where you help people.”
 
While balancing her studies and duties as a member of the dance team, Walden has also been logging plenty of hours at Ruby Memorial in both a study and work role. She has been tasked with earning 225 leadership hours where she’s worked with an assigned nurse and also works as a Clinical Associate at the same hospital on campus.
 
“The leadership experience has been wonderful because I’ve learned so much,” she said. “I feel it’s going to make me ready to go into the profession immediately.”
 
So how on earth does Walden balance all of that, along with serving as the team’s head of alumni relations?
 
“It has helped me with time management 100 percent. I actually work best in chaos,” she said. “This has made me the person I am today because I don’t know what down time is anymore.”
 
Christina Pizatella, who is Walden’s dance team coach, said many things stand out about Walden. And she pointed to more than just her dancing.
 
“She’s an excellent leader and always willing to help out her teammates. She is the one that balances a lot between school, work and the dance team and I admire her for that,” said Pizatella. “She definitely has a full plate.”
 
With the basketball season over and with her graduation looming, one may thing it’s all over for Walden on the dance front. However, it’s still going forward for a few more months.
 
The WVU dance team has qualified for the national dance team competition. In April they will compete in Daytona.
 
“This is the dance team’s version of the NCAA basketball tournament,” said Walden. “We’ll be working out and prepping for the event until April and then it’s over. I know, for sure, it’s something I’m going to miss because I’ve been doing this for a big part of my life now.”
 
While the event will put the dance team in the spotlight, Walden and other seniors were in the spotlight during one of the final men’s home basketball games. They were honored in front of the Coliseum crowd.
 
Walden came out on the floor with her parents Ron and Michelle. And she was joined by her brother Aaron, who is amazingly better after a devastating Nov. 8 automobile accident.
 
“Having them all there made the evening even more special. Aaron is doing so wonderful and is back here at WVU,” said Walden. “That day let me know how much I’m going to miss this.”
 
And the program will miss her.
 
“We’ll miss her a lot. That senior class, with four senior captains, each bringing something unique and special to the table, is going to be hard to replace,” said Pizatella.
 
Walden said without her family and friends – and what she learned at Bridgeport High School – she couldn’t have gotten to where she is today.
 
“I was able to handle everything because I was prepared in a high school that valued academics, but also valued the health and wellness of students by making sure you had a chance to be involved and get your out  there,” said Walden. “I owe so much to teachers there … They made a difference and why Bridgeport will always be home.”
 
Home in the future, however, will likely be Morgantown.
 
“I hope to be able to work here at Ruby after graduation,” said Walden.
 
Perhaps this time she can hang around a bit and enjoy the day.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo of Danielle Walden courtesy of Dan Shrensky, while the next two are courtesy of Danielle Walden. Bottom two photos of Walden were taken by - and run with the permission of - Steven M. Prunty.


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