The Tigerettes are used to working hard for what they earn. In March of 2016, Tigard High School's competitive dance team brought home three trophies from the United Spirits Association National Spirit & Dance Competition: a third place win for large dance/pom, a second place in open kick and a first place win for open large dance.
"Leading up to nationals, we will practice every single day," said Abby Lam, a Tigerettes captain and incoming senior at Tigard High.
The Tigerettes go to nationals every other year, which means they'll be going again this school year. But the hard work begins long before the daily practice schedule starts, because the Tigerettes take part in year-round fundraising so that they can afford to attend the Anaheim, Calif.-based competition. The team's four captains are expected to raise $2,000 by the end of this summer.
"Each year, the coaches give us a captain goal to fundraise for the summer," Lam said. "This year our goal is actually pretty high, just because we're going to nationals."
This Saturday, the Tigerettes will host a youth dance clinic fundraiser at Westside Dance Academy. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will each be paired with a Tigerette and learn a dance routine. All proceeds will go toward the team's fundraising goal.
"We've done it every year, but usually we do it in the fall," Lam said. "We thought it would be a really great idea to help us fundraise to do in the summer, as a summer camp kind of thing."
Though the national competition isn't until February of 2018, the Tigerettes already have secured their slot through a video submission process.
"We have to qualify to get to nationals... we had to send in (video) bids to qualify, since we don't have national-sanctioned competitions in Oregon," Lam said. "To qualify for nationals, you have to participate at one of the USA regional competitions, or send in a video bid to qualify."
Lam's first experience with organized dance was through Synergy, a dance team for middle schoolers in the Tigard-Tualatin School District. She joined in sixth grade after watching her older sister participate.
"Going to her competitions, it was always inspiring to watch her," Lam said. "I wanted to dance, but I didn't get a chance to until sixth grade."
For Lam, going to nationals next year will be the cherry on top of a rewarding seven-year school dance career.
"Being on a team, it's so great to be connecting to all these people, and having coaches that give inspiration from teaching me all these things," she said. "Dancing is just a way to express myself when I know words aren't my best thing. Performing and being out there, on a gym floor with all these people and having the support of my parents. ... I love it so much."