Exactly nine months ago, I ended my eight-year cheerleading career. This sport had always been my biggest extracurricular commitment in high school and college, and as much as my parents would hate to hear it, I often spent more time cheering than studying.
Cheerleading was crucial to my personal development—in addition to developing healthy fitness habits, being a member of a team sport taught me much about responsibility, leadership and most importantly, how to be confident in myself.
As I moved across the country to serve with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, I thought my cheerleading shoes had been retired once and for all.
Then, we started running enrichments at Cureton Elementary School. In addition to homework help, Starfish Corps and snack time, students in the Cureton after school program also have the option of choosing a special club. Each enrichment meets three times a week for a month and a half, and have ranged from the Around the World club to the American Sign Language enrichment. The enrichment program gives students the opportunity to find success outside of academics and to explore a topic about which they are truly passionate. It also gave me the ability to dust off my cheer shoes.
For the past six weeks, I’ve had the privilege to work with a talented group of cheerleaders-to-be, practicing everything from general conditioning to motion and jump drills. We also spent countless hours working on the crème de la crème of any good cheerleading routine: stunting, or in non-cheer lingo, putting people up in the air.
Two Fridays ago, my cheerleaders—and the entire Cureton after school program—showed off their hard work to their families and the community as a part of the Enrichment Showcase. The Enrichment Showcase highlighted the accomplishments made by each club during their six-week cycle, and was a great way to give students the ability to speak and perform in public.
Students had the opportunity to show off their art, participate in a debate, perform songs and dances, present a model of the solar system and play a highlight reel of their athletic pursuits.
Our students left the Enrichment Showcase beaming as they spoke about their accomplishments. And while we may have only created a few future scientists or dance team captains, that sense of self pride that our students displayed is something that we should seek to create every day. By the smiles on our students’ faces as they left the cafeteria on that Friday night, I knew we succeeded.
Alex Mihalek, Corps Member CYSJ