Cheerleaders, Raiderettes Face Challenges

After stretching their legs and arms, the Raiderettes strutted onto the football field at halftime to perform their routine. The thought of messing up or getting out of sync raced through their brains, but as the music began, their nerves eased. From the sidelines, the cheerleaders shouted, “Shake it, Ladies! Shake it!” The home crowd screamed, clapped, and stomped their feet on the bleachers. Next, the cheerleaders took their turn on the field. They smiled as they fought off nerves in the hopes that all stunts hit. With another successful performance completed, the girls jumped for joy and laughed.

At age seven, Stephanie Galicia, 7th, knew she wanted to be a cheerleader when she watched some perform at football games.

“My most memorable moment on the cheer team was the Darby football game because a lot of people went, our 7th grade team won, and we got to meet people from Darby,” Stephanie said.

Ashley Figueroa’s older sister Heidi inspired her to become a Raiderette.

“My dream is to dance at Northside, and I’m so excited that I made the team!” Ashley said. “Heidi was so proud of me and before tryouts, she gave me some tips, like smile at the judges. She also told me if I forget the dance, just keep dancing and look confident. Always look like you’re having fun!”

When Shy’Niejah Smith saw Raiderettes perform, she thought it looked really fun.

“The people who inspired me were my friends Derieona Johnson and Alyrie Hayes by them both telling me how great Dance is,” Shy’Niejah said. “It has also been a dream of mine to be a dancer, so I tried out and made the team.”

Nelli Lopez Cortes, 8th, looked up to the cheerleaders as a little girl and admired their talent.

“Our first game was my most memorable moment because we went to eat before it, and everybody was excited and happy,” Nelli said.

Watching dance shows inspired Ka’Yana Black, 7th, to become a Raiderette.

“I like to dance in front of everyone,” Ka’Yana said. “My most memorable moment was our first half-time performance. We were so scared!”

Derieona Johnson’s most memorable moment as a Raiderette was the lock-in with the cheerleaders inside the storm shelter.

“We stole the speaker back and played loud knocking sounds,” Derieona said.

Cheerleader Aliona Perry, 7th, remembered when they were rolling out mats.

“They flipped the mat over, and I was under it and someone stepped on me,” Aliona said.

The Raiderettes enjoyed the privilege of working with former Raider Katrina Steward who choreographed their routines.

Derieona liked how fun Miss Katrina is.

“She gave us tips on things and told us to not be stiff,” Derieona said.

Ka’Yana appreciated how nice Miss Katrina is.

“Miss Katrina has a great, positive attitude and helped us when we were struggling on a move,” Ka’Yana said.

Of their two holiday dance routines, Ashley enjoyed the Christmas one better than the Halloween one.

“I liked the song, we had candy canes, and I liked the moves better,” Ashley said.

Ka’Yana also preferred the Christmas routine.

“We got to give younger kids candy canes, and they had smiles on their faces,” Ka’Yana said.

Monique Lira agreed.

“We got to be goofy and have fun in the Christmas dance,” Monique said.

Inspired by her mom to become a Raiderette, Chanell Taylor preferred the Halloween dance routine.

“We did flips and other things,” Chanell said.

Aside from inspiration and favorite routines, the cheerleaders and dancers faced challenges.

“Learning how to perform in front of people can get a bit nerve wracking, but it’s okay when you do what you love,” Stepahnie said.

Nelli’s biggest challenge was having to finish off the cheer season after losing their captains and Coach Newman who moved to Germany to teach children whose parents serve in the U.S. military.

“We couldn’t come up with any new dances or cheers to perform, and our technique was bad because we didn’t have anyone to really help us enough,” Nelli said.

Blaiklea Young’s biggest challenge was having to step up as cheer captain.

“It was difficult because I had to tell people what they needed to do, but I hated making people mad whenever they didn’t want to do it,” Blaiklea said.

Derieona Johnson, who has danced for nine years, cited tryouts as her biggest challenge.

“I had to keep a very big smile on my face,” Deriona said.

Monique’s biggest challenge was remembering the dance routines, doing the splits, and kicking.

“Trying to go all the way down in the splits was hard, but eventually I got it by stretching,” Monique said.

Taleah Watson, who has been a cheerleader for seven years, felt getting jumps to be high off the ground could be hard.

“Some people are not flexible,” Taleah said.

The biggest challenge Chanell faced as a Raiderette was trying not to mess up when performing in front of a crowd.

“I had to really focus,” Chanell said.

Cheer sponsor, Coach Newman observed that there were a lot of nerves and anxiety at the beginning of the year because they only had two returning cheerleaders at the time. However, there was also a lot of excitement and eagerness to learn.

“The girls worked with former Raider Quincy Williams for a week during summer learning their first dance routine and several cheers,” Coach Newman said. “They came in three days a week up until school started to learn cheers and practice dances and stunts, which they absolutely loved doing. Even though they were scared of learning the stunts, the girls were still fearless in their attempts at making sure they got everything right. They were also really excited once football season started, and they cheered at games.”

Throughout the season, the cheerleaders worked well as a team, encouraged each other, and lifted each other up.

“I was really impressed with how hard they worked and how well they progressed considering how new the team was,” Coach Newman said.

Even though she did not like having to deal with drama on the Dance team, Adrienne Castillo, 7th, she did enjoy bonding with her fellow Raiderettes.

“We sat in a circle and wrote nice things about everyone,” Adrienne said.

Raiderette sponsor, Coach Cecil appreciated her dancers’ willingness to work through problems with each other.

“Many dancers got in trouble and learned valuable life lessons on how to apologize, how to recover from mistakes, and how to be humble and forgive each other,” Coach Cecil said. “Yes, I’m proud of the work they all did to become better dancers, but the work they put in to become better ladies was the most valuable.”