The HDS Foundation recently had the opportunity to work with a local high school student in putting together a collaborative event between the school’s varsity cheerleaders and a group of special needs girls who also attend the high school. As a junior coach for the Weston Warriors cheerleaders, Alexia Alter had the opportunity to coach a child with special needs and the smile that never left her face inspired her to put a program together at her high school. With amazing motivation for a sixteen year old, the varsity cheerleader at Cypress Bay High School set out to research what it would take to create a mentoring program for cheerleaders at her school.
She opted for a one week mini-camp, where she would bring together interested girls with varsity cheerleaders. She choreographed a routine for them to learn for halftime, and together with the other cheerleaders taught the girls some of their routine sideline cheers. The cheerleaders worked one on one with the students, teaching them basic motions, cheers, jumps and the dance, which was set to Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’.
At the Cypress Bay Lightning Varsity Basketball game, the “buddies” performed to many cheers from the crowd. They were so happy and excited to be cheering and dancing alongside of their peers, and the Cypress Bay community responded with great enthusiasm. One of the buddies said that she really enjoyed interacting with Alexia and the other cheerleaders in a special way. She stated that Alexia was a good coach and that the girls always “got high fives” and a great deal of encouragement. Moreover, the impact this event had on their self-esteem and confidence was exemplified by the congratulations and recognition of their school peers.
Creating a mentorship program is a wonderful thing, particularly at the high school level. Socialization for special needs teens is difficult, and by providing a vehicle for peer to peer and positive role models, this teen population can have a positive high school experience, and learn in a setting that typically they would not be in. By providing a little guidance and some financial support for the uniforms, the HDS Foundation was able to be part of a great community activity.
We are encouraged that this young student has the values to drive her to work on such a project and hope she will continue to work as a student peer to bring more awareness and acceptance in our schools.