Students have a lot of time on their hands now that schools are closed until at least May 15 in North Carolina and sporting events are done until at least May 18.
Many of them though are making good use of their time whether it be doing supplemental work for their classes online, or taking time to read books to children in the community like the A.L. Brown High School Cheerleaders.
Several of the Wonders have put videos up online of them reading books for younger students around the community to watch. They named the program CheerREADERS.
“We’ve been talking about how we really get these kids involved and how to keep them still engaged in their community,” head cheer coach Brittney Speights said.
She continued: “We saw other people reading, like, a lot of teachers are reading to their kids and so we just kind of put a play on words, so instead of Cheer-leaders, we just decided to do Cheer-READERS. Our kids are really, really smart. They’re really academically gifted and so we just knew that this was something they’d latch onto.”
So far there are two videos up on the cheerleaders’ site as Niya Kerr and Roxi Lemelin have read “The Giving Tree” and “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes.”
The CheerREADERS have actually received permission from the authors of all of the books they are reading to use them.
This is just a continuation of what the Wonders have done all year — they want to connect with their community in any way they can.
“Cheer is just more than doing stunts and flips,” Kerr said. “It’s more about giving back to the community so I feel like by doing CheerREADERS we can reach out to more people.”
“We really need to give back to the community and show that we’re more than just sideline cheerleaders,” Tanner Adams said. “We like to give back and show people who we really are.”
The CheerREADERS are doing one video per day this week.
“Whenever I thought about doing it, it’s a way to help your community, yes, but it’s also a good way to still share spirit because our community is going through a hard time with coronavirus,” Koda Lemelin said. “And so doing this and still getting out to the younger kids and being able to help them and entertain them is a good way to look at it.”
“I think that just because this is a very hard time in our community, I think this is just a really good way to be there for a lot of the students,” Cayla Artis said. “A lot of students are affected by it.
“Just to keep us productive and keep us very educated at this time, I think is just a good way to be there for our community.”
“So many of the kids in our community look up to the cheerleaders and so I think seeing (us) continue at (our) schoolwork and (our) reading, I think it’s going to inspire the kids to make it through this time as well,” Chelsea Herron said.
These videos are literally just students reading a book into a camera. With the social distancing guidelines in place across the state due to COVID-19, the cheerleaders couldn’t go to a classroom and spend time with the students.
This isn’t the most natural thing even for cheerleaders who are used to attention. But the attention some of them got from doing this led to some pretty funny moments.
“Where I videotaped it, it wasn’t in my home, it was at school,” Justin Giraldo said. “So I had people looking at me while I was recoding it so it was just straight up weird.
“People would interrupt the video and go ‘Oh hey!’ I had to restart like five times.”
Slightly awkward moments aside, this is a special week for the Wonders. After winning the first state title in school history in December, the team got the chance to go to Orlando and compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship.
They finished top 10 in both the gameday competition and the traditional in the medium co-ed category (up to 25 people, four to seven boys).
That performance will be aired in some way Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on ESPNU. There may only be a small portion of their routines, but they are hopeful they’ll get to see themselves on national television.
It’s a special opportunity and one that will be a welcome distraction from all of the craziness going on around them right now.
“It would be an amazing feeling because, like, you look back at it and you realize it was all worth it,” Juan Jacquez said. “So, just an amazing feeling that you could see yourself.”
The Kannapolis community will get plenty of chances to see their cheerleaders whether it be on national television or reading to students over the next few days.
The point of all of this was to stay connected with the community that has been so supportive of the Wonders throughout their great run over the last three years which includes Top 3 placings at state each of the last three seasons and two appearances at nationals over the last two years.
“It’s important to give back to the community even through this rough time,” Alissa (Rexi) Lemelin said. “Because we have to show the love for the community even if nobody else does.”
Speights has raved about the support the community and school has shown her since she took over the cheerleading program a few years ago.
She made some adjustments which made the program tougher but she always had support from Superintendent Chip Buckwell and the rest of the administration.
She wants her cheerleaders to give back as much as they can as a result of that and this program is a perfect example of what they can do for those around them.
And who knows? Maybe they build off of this and find even more ways to reach Kannapolis in the future.
“I think one thing that would be cool as far as going past the school closures and going past this year…if this is something we can launch off of the whole CheerREADERS program, I think it would be cool if we could figure out how to implement this in our district next year,” Speights said. “Whether that’s one day a month our cheerleaders go to an elementary school and read a book or just continue to do this weekly, I’m not really sure what it looks like and I’m sure that we’d have to have some other people involved in our district but I’m sure that they would be on board with that if we could get that going.
“And that’s just a thought off the top of my head, but I think that that would be something really nice to do going forward past this coronavirus, past these school closures.”