THE NEW FACES OF CHEERLEADING
“Cheerleaders today represent the leaders of tomorrow,” says NFHS Coach of the Year
Patsy Hendricks. “Their involvement in the community and with extracurricular
activities, as well as their strong focus on academics, are preparing them for success in
college and throughout their adult lives.”
Today’s cheerleaders are quite possibly the most actively involved of all student athletes.
A recent study of 6,000 high school cheerleaders revealed that not only do they
participate in various extracurricular activities, but they also play other sports, hold
leadership positions both at school and in their community, and excel academically.
The study, which was conducted from May to September 2008 by the Organization of
Spirit Industry Providers (OSIP), carried out to find the relationship between high school
cheerleaders and their academic achievement, extracurricular participation, leadership,
and community service.
The survey, which looked specifically at academic achievement, extra-curricular
participation, leadership and community service, revealed these results:
Academics: Approximately 90 percent of the cheerleaders surveyed maintained a “B”
average or above, with nearly half maintain “A” averages.
Extra-curricular participation: 43 percent of the cheerleaders played at least one other
school sport, and more than half participated in non-sport school based activities.
Leadership: In addition to the obvious leadership activities associated with cheerleading,
the study found that approximately 25 percent held other leadership roles at the school,
including captains of school sports teams, class officers, and student government
Service: More than 50 percent of the cheerleading teams participated in community and
charitable activities, including organizing participants for Race for the Cure, tutoring
elementary school students, participating in anti-drinking/drug program and representing
the school at town or city celebrations.
Natalie Adams, co-author of Cheerleader! An American Icon and Assistant Dean of the
Graduate School of the University of Alabama notes, “Cheerleading has continued to
reinvent itself, since its inception as a male-only activity in the late 1800s, to one of the
only athletic activities open to girls in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, to the competitive
squads of today. However, the core values of cheerleading – leadership, service, and
communication – have remained constant throughout its 120-year history.
The following student-athletes were selected to represent OSIP as the top five Faces of
Cheerleading, as they excelled in all areas.
Amber Lynn Garcia, a senior cheerleader from Texas, keeps an impressive 3.975 GPA,
while often giving of her time to be a Student Council representative, class officer, and an
active member of the National Honor Society. She is currently taking all AP courses, and
was recently named the recipient of her school’s annual Leadership Award.
Lauren Vagnini of Connecticut received the 2008 Scholar Athlete Award for her
dedication to both academics and athletics. She is a member of the National Honor
Society, Music Honor Society, and plays the flute in her high school band. When she’s
not involved with an extracurricular obligation, Lauren makes time to volunteer at a local
middle school, as well as participate in Locks of Love.
Colby Poss of Tennessee maintains a 3.56 GPA, even while enrolled in all honors
courses. Keeping up with her academics, she is a member of the Beta Club and National
Honor Society. Colby is an active member of her school’s Student Council, and she
recently earned the title of Miss White House Heritage. Outside of school, she is
passionate about helping to fight Juvenile Diabetes and is a volunteer at her local
Kari Hellman of Ohio, who is no stranger to keeping an impressive 4.0 GPA, is
committed to her involvement in the National Honor Society and her school’s Student
Government Association. She is also an active member of the community, participating
in Race for the Cure and often volunteering at a local nursing home.
Tiah Jones of Mississippi considers academics a vital aspect of her career as a student.
Even with her rigorous class load and practice schedule, Tiah cheerfully makes time for
involvement outside of academia. She is an active member of the Beta Club, National
Honor Society, and Student Council, and was also selected as a Junior Miss candidate.
Greg Webb, an OSIP Board Member, says, “The results were not surprising to those of us
who are in close contact with these students, but it’s always nice to have it validated with
such positive results.” Webb adds, “There seems to be a lot of negative stereotypes that
persist, and this survey really helps to fight them.”