• 55°

‘Like sisters’: Cheerleaders share special bond

China Grove Middle School’s eighth grade cheerleading squad is tight-knit.

None of the 13 girls were close friends before they started cheering together, but now, the group is inseparable.

“I think it really brought us together. We’re like sisters now,” said Bailee Elliott.

Last year, Emily Hall served as the squad’s special helper, but this year, she joined the team.

When Hall, who has Down syndrome, started helping with the team, she was shy and not very communicative, according to cheerleading coach Davina Stewart.

But the girls embraced her, and Hall began teaching herself some of the cheers, including her favorite one, called, “Special.” The cheerleaders even asked her to call the cheer for them at games

“Now, she talks all the time,” Stewart said. “I think it’s affected lots and lots of people in lots and lots of areas.”

“I’ve seen a huge improvement, mostly in behavior toward other individuals,” she said. “Middle school is a difficult time. I know that it has opened their eyes.”

“These girls have embraced not just Emily, but all our students with special needs,” said Athletic Director Lisa Faggart. “I could not ask for a better group of girls.”

Stewart said the girls also try harder because they see Hall working so hard to be a part of the team.

Hall’s place on the team has had an “impact on the other students – not just the cheerleaders – because they all route for Emily,” Faggart said.

The team practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school and cheers at games on Mondays and Thursdays. The girls can participate in an optional tumbling class on Fridays.

The group displays a unique spirit of unity, respect and inclusion.

Kenzie Yow said those values are what opens the door for the girls to be such good friends.

They joined the cheerleading squad for a host of reasons – for fun, to promote school spirit or to make new friends – but they actually joined a family.

“We always listen to each other and take in everybody’s ideas,” Sarah Maynor said.

“Everybody has a chance to talk,” Savannah Oxendine added.

“All the decisions we’ve made have made us better,” said Taylor Porozynski.

Maynor added that Hall is the group’s peacemaker.

“I like it because we’re like a second family,” Yow said.

Hall said her favorite part of being on the cheerleading squad is learning to do the cheers.

“We’re very supportive of each other,” Elliot said, adding that the girls always strive to include Hall in everything they do.

“If there’s something she can’t do, we don’t do it,” she said.

Sometimes that means thinking creatively to find ways Hall can participate. The girls have learned to add a chair so she doesn’t have to kneel, or rearrange the way things are set up so Hall can take part in the cheers.

“She’s really brought us together,” Maynor said. “She always helps us think about each other.”

Comments

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransom

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday