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LAUREN: At Home on the Big Stage

"No dream is ever too far out of reach."

For Lauren, the New York Jets Flight Crew's Gameday Girl for Sunday's season opener against Buffalo, that advice has never been forgotten.

It was a message passed along to her at a young age by the three biggest mentors in her life: her mother, her great-grandmother and her aunt.

Growing up in West Pittston, Pa., Lauren began her dance career two decades ago when she was just 2½ years old.

"Honestly, I think that my earlier training is where I developed my ability to listen to music," she said. "I don't know how much technique I was getting at that age, but I think that's how I became comfortable with dance, starting that early on."

Five years later she would begin advancing to the high school cheerleading level. She served as captain of the Wyoming Area Secondary Center Warriors and during her senior year had the opportunity to cheer at the 2008 Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

"That was a huge deal for me because that was the first time I got to dance on that big of a football stage," she said.

While she enjoys dancing and cheerleading equally, Lauren also has always had a strong passion for singing. Prior to joining the Flight Crew she performed on Broadway. She classifies herself as a Disney fanatic and lists "Beauty and the Beast" as her favorite musical.

"I would definitely say my life is consumed by anything that has to do with the performing arts," she said, "whether it be singing or dancing or cheering or coaching or anything along those lines."

Today when Lauren's not training with the Flight Crew, she is a dance instructor. She still resides in West Pittston and teaches at the town's dance studio, instructing 6-year-olds and privately coaching students up to the age of 19.

For college, she attended Kutztown University and was a member of their dance team her freshman, sophomore and junior years. But after her junior year, she joined the Jets. Although she was no longer able to dance for her school, she was hired as Kutztown's coach and choreographer her senior year.

"I had such amazing instructors," Lauren said. "Even my cheerleading coaches were more to me than instructors. They were such inspirational people and I owe every single ounce of success I have to them.  Becoming a teacher is something I couldn't see myself living without."

Maybe more than anyone else in her dancing career, Lauren has benefited tremendously from Flight Crew director Denise Garvey. She labels Garvey's coaching style as "particular, fair and insistent" and identifies her as one of the most humble individuals she knows.

"Denise has this kind of unspoken way of driving people," Lauren said. "I can't really put it into words. But I think the best way to say it is if you were in a room for one of our rehearsals, you could see the way she looks at us, the way she fixes things and the way she pushes us and even sometimes the way she praises us. She's not afraid to tell us when we're making a mistake and when we need to step it up."

Lauren first tried out for the Flight Crew in 2010 after her mom urged her to try something new. That year, however, she was sent home following the final round of cuts.

"Making it to finals was an honor and I can honestly say I walked out of there with a different attitude than many," Lauren said. "Many were very down on themselves and some even shed tears. I did nothing but smile. I came all the way from Pennsylvania to try out for this incredible New York team, and to know that I made the top 60 that Denise had chosen was an honor in itself."

In some ways, not earning a spot in 2010 was a blessing in disguise, motivating Lauren to come back stronger for auditions the next year. Not losing faith, she trained extra in the offseason, continued teaching her students and even took technique classes on her own. The additional time and dedication awarded her a spot on the 2011 squad.  

"After seeing those girls, seeing the bond they all had, and seeing how incredible they were, I definitely knew that's where I belonged," she said. "I really wanted to try out again and prove that I was good enough and could be a part of what was so amazing to begin with."

As the Flight Crew begins its sixth season on Sunday, a new package will also be introduced. The fresh item set to be on display is the Show Team, which includes 12 elite members from the squad who will perform before every home game this season. Lauren was one of the dozen chosen and said there will be costume changes and props used during some of the routines.

"Of course, fans know that we're trained dancers, and of course they know that we know how to perform," Lauren said. "But I think this is really just stepping it up a notch and to be able to share this experience with 11 of my other teammates, it truly is incredible. We'll be able to perform at some wonderful appearances, hopefully do some really good charity performances and some corporate events. We have special costumes and it's going to add a whole new element of surprise to gameday."

Now there are two intriguing things to prepare for  in the opener — the debut of the highly anticipated Jets Wildcat offense as well as the Flight Crew's Show Team.

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