Nathan Bishop Cougars Cheerleading Squad
One day last fall, 4 eighth grade girls came up to me when I was still a Site Coordinator to express their deep disappointment in the fact that there were no cheerleading programs in the AfterZone. I knew Keily, Nacasia, Alexis, and Dorbor well—they had all taken 3 years of AfterZone programs during their middle school careers, but because they had each been involved in art, design, and STEM programs, I was surprised at their insistence on cheerleading. Apparently, they were each heavily involved in cheerleading for local town sports teams outside of school and couldn’t understand why they’d never been given the opportunity to cheer for their own school.
They had a solution: they would start a cheerleading program in the AfterZone.
They made such a compelling case for their program that I agreed, but with some conditions. They needed to find an adult sponsor, they would have to organize and hold a tryout, and fundraise for their uniforms.
As is always the case with middle school, there were some twists and turns and I ended up being their adult sponsor. Since I had to work during their AfterZone program hours, I recruited volunteers from Providence College who could supervise the squad while I was working.
They had adult supervision, but it was really Keily, Nacasia, Alexis, and Dorbor that ran the program from the ground up. They organized a tryout—the first in Nathan Bishop history—and 19 girls showed up. Impressed, I asked them who we were going to cut. Their unanimous answer impressed me even more: “We want to work with everyone. We think they all have the potential to be a cheerleader.”
And so the 19-girl Nathan Bishop Cheerleading Squad organized a bake sale to raise money for their uniforms. Most of them had never had the opportunity to take part in a professional, organized sporting activity, let alone don new uniforms. Five hundred cookies later, they had raised $400. We took our uniform money down to Elmwood Sports Center, who were so moved by what the girls were doing, they generously gave us a steep discount on brand new uniforms.
Over the next 15 weeks, the squad practiced constantly—whether the AfterZone was in session or not (at that point, our squad thinned out on its own). Keily, Nacasia, Alexis, and Dorbor were incredible squad leaders, pushing the other girls outside of their comfort zones in ways that were inspiring and compassionate. The younger girls really looked up to them and enjoyed having “upperclassmen” friends, while the 8th graders found that they were well suited to act as school role models.
I’m proud to say that they made their debut at the Nathan Bishop Cougars’ first home game at Classical High School last month to a SUPERSTAR welcome. The team felt invincible because they finally had cheerleaders supporting them and the student body was incredibly supportive. And LOUD!
Last night they performed their first ever half time show in front of over 200 sports fans from four different middle schools. This was the first time we’d let eighth graders design and run a program at Nathan Bishop and I couldn’t have been more proud of these determined, self-confident, and innovative girls. I feel lucky that I’ve had the privilege to get to know them over the last 3 years and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish in high school next year.