Skilled jump rope group lifts young girls to success

SOUTH LEBANON, Ohio -- If you think of jumping rope as an art form, then the Firecrackers are masters. They're an extraordinary group of girls -- spanning grades fourth to eighth -- from South Lebanon, Ohio.

Jaylin Little has been a Firecracker for five years.

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Jaylin Little
CBS News

"We practice five days a week, two hours a day," Jaylin told me. "And you just need to put a lot of work into it, to get really good."

The Firecrackers are igniting this small Ohio town and the whole country. They perform at parades, on David Letterman, and they're bringing down the house at college and professional halftime shows. We recently caught up with them at an Army-Navy game.

Anna Powell, 13, says she feels famous performing in front of crowds. Jumping rope on her rear, she says, is the biggest crowd pleaser.

The team was started 20 years ago by former physical education teacher Lynn Kelley. She says when she first started the team South Lebanon was a small, "sleepy little Appalachian village." Many members of her team were from a trailer park.

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The Firecrackers show off their skills during halftime of a college basketball game
CBS News

At the time, South Lebanon's poverty rate was 15 percent - 11 percent higher than the national average.

"Some of the kids did not have the benefit of music lessons and dance lessons," said Kelley. "The school did not offer, at that time,extracurricular activities, after-school programs to foster the kids' creative talents."

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Lynn Kelley, founder of the Firecrackers
CBS News

At $2 a jump rope Kelley found a simple a solution: In addition to practicing ten hours a week, the girls are also required to take public speaking and etiquette classes. They must maintain good grades and if they miss a homework assignment, they aren't allowed to participate in an upcoming event. Kelley says her program isn't really about jump roping.

"It's about developing kids to be great future citizens," explained Kelley.

Over the last 20 years, 167 girls have been Firecrackers and most stay for three to five years. Their story is now in the process of being turned into a film called "Firecrackers."