LOWER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN (WABC) — A high school cheerleading squad from Manhattan has qualified for Nationals in Florida, but they’re looking for fundraising help to get there.
When high school freshman Arianna Alois lost her older sister in October, she felt she had lost the only person who understood her.
“It was really hard because my sister was a mother to me,” said cheerleader Ariana Alois. “Even though I have a mom who takes care of me. She was more like a mother and I could go to her about anything and she was kind of my person.”
Her sister left behind two sons, a 1-year-old and a 6-month-old, after she was hit and killed by a truck near Prospect Park.
For Alois, a surprising safe haven to cope with his loss was the sport of support.
Seward Park’s team of supporters became an unexpected family to whom she could turn in her grief.
“I thought when I first came here that I wouldn’t get close to anyone so quickly, but it was actually the opposite,” Alois said.
Alois and the team are now on a mission together.
Last year, they made history as the first team from a Manhattan campus to qualify for the national cheer competition in Orlando, Florida. This year, they’ve earned another shot and are ready to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder.
But the biggest obstacle in their way is the price tag. Cheer is not recognized as a sport in the city and receives little to no athletic funding.
Young women in the unit recognize systemic injustice.
“It’s a little sad because I feel like if we get down to the heart of why cheerleaders don’t get funded in New York State, it’s mostly because of misogyny and a lot of people I talk to have misconceptions about cheerleading,” Cheerleader Grace said Ayodele.
For those who doubt, all they have to do is look at the strength, discipline, perseverance, skill and confidence the cheerleaders put into it.
They train 3.5 hours a day, four days a week at the Seward Park campus on the Lower East Side.
“Nationals or competitions in general are pretty intense, so in order to feel ready beyond just being physically ready, our team has to be mentally prepared,” coach Gianna Quinterna said. “So it’s working on our communication as a team, it’s working on leadership development. Dealing with stress honestly. I think managing stress is a huge thing for any athlete.”
However, to qualify for Nationals, they will need to raise $30,000 in less than a month.
It’s a small price to pay, when you think about it, to support a team that does more than get sick.
“There were times when I didn’t feel very motivated to sit there and go through the whole practice, and Gianna would talk to me and use that as an outlet to express her feelings,” Alois said. “Like all the stress and sadness and anger that I have, just to leave it all on the mat and express myself through joy.”
The the team set up a GoFundMe pagein which you can contribute to help make their dream come true.
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