Jan. 15 – Now back for her final semester, Brownsville Veterans Memorial head cheerleader Valeria Perez says saving up to perform in the London New Year’s Day Parade in front of crowds in Piccadilly Square and Westminster was definitely worth the effort Abbey.
A cheerleader for Veterans Memorial Early College High School, Perez has attended Varsity Spirit Association summer cheerleading camps since she was a freshman. One of the perks of being selected as an All American at these camps, as she has done at several, is the opportunity to perform in well-known events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Pearl Harbor Day Parade in Hawaii.
“I saw London and I thought it would be really neat. I had known about it since freshman year, but it seemed unattainable, like it was a reach, so I started saving my money, selling cupcakes, baking cakes, sell cakes so I could achieve that dream,” Valeria said last week at the end of a school day, after cheerleading practice but before starting her homework.
Perez was part of a group of about 300 Varsity Spirit Association cheerleaders who performed in this year’s parade. She said the reception they got was surprising.
“I remember people looking at us like we were so amazing, like different creatures. I remember me and some friends I had made throughout the program sitting on the sidewalk eating our sandwiches before we went to to perform and we had people like to take pictures of us. It was so much fun. They just thought we were really great. “Oh, the American cheerleaders.” It was really great. It was neat,” said she.
Valeria and her parents lived in a hotel right in the middle of everything.
“The atmosphere was so welcoming. I thought the buildings and the streets were beautiful. Everyone was so friendly. And then on New Year’s Eve everyone went outside the hotel because the hotel was outside the Tower of London where the Queen has her Crown Jewels … it’s a beautiful tower … we all saw the fireworks. We all did the countdown. It was amazing,” she reiterated.
As the day of the parade approached, the organization running the parade sent us a video of the routine we were to learn. We had to know it from front to back and there were different ripples, said Valeria.
“We did cheers and shouts and said little things during the parade with the audience, and as soon as we got to one of the stands, we started dancing and doing our performance and then doing shouts and cheers to the crowd.”
Once they were on the ground in London, it was like being in the parade, more fun than work, she said.
“I think it was a lot of pressure going in. You’re told you’re the best of the best during those camps, so there’s a lot of pressure going in, but once we got there, the environment, the teachers and staff. who were there made it feel natural.”
Perez leads the varsity Veterans Memorial Cheer Squad. Veterans Memorial also has a dance team, the Chargerettes.
“The dancers do the breaks, we do the sideline,” she said, describing the work of putting on shows at games as more fun than work.
“I think it’s fun. It’s a lot of work during the summer to get all the girls to learn the cheer and dance, but once it comes to performing, which the games are like our performance, it’s pure fun. I love it. . All the girls love it. It’s just a great experience because cheerleading at our school, which is like our job, is not like a job because all we do is have fun,” she said .
Valeria has wanted to be a cheerleader since eighth grade.
“I remember I was actually a dancer in middle school and there’s this event called band night where the high school dancers go and perform with the high school dancers at a football game and are with those dancers and watch the high school cheerleaders on the sidelines, … I decided , that I wanted to be a cheerleader … That was my favorite part of dance, which is performing and showing off and showing off my skills, plus having all the energy and excitement and all the excitement that comes with cheerleading.”
Perez maintains a busy schedule and maintains her position as a top 10% student academically. She said most of her classes are Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment.
“So I get out of school at 4:10 p.m. and that’s when I set up my calendar what to do,” she said. “From 4.30-7 it’s practice and then I come home at 7.30 and that’s when I have to do homework and so on. But juggling everything when it gets difficult. I’m also in a church group called ECYD , which meets from 7:30 to 9. It fluctuates, and if there’s a conflict, I’ll just have to push my homework back or do it at school in my free periods,” she said.
Perez plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology before moving on to law school and eventually a career as a personal injury attorney.
She said an internship with Brownsville attorney Juan Magallanes inspired her in that direction.
Perez is the daughter of Mark and Hilda Perez, owners of the Toddle Inn restaurant in Brownsville.