LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) – A high school cheer team in Manhattan has qualified for Nationals in Florida, but they’re looking for help in their fundraising efforts there.
When high school freshman Arianna Alois lost her older sister in October, she felt like she lost the only person who understood her.
“It was very difficult because my sister was a mother figure to me,” said cheerleader Arianna Alois. “Although I have a mum who cares about me. She was more like a mother figure, 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, the sport of cheerleading was a wonderful safe haven to deal with her loss.
The Seward Park gaming team became an unexpected family she could turn to in her grief.
“I thought when I first came here, that I would not be so close to anyone really quickly, but it was really the opposite,” said Alois.
Now together, Alois and the team are on a mission.
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Last year, they made history as the first Manhattan campus team to qualify for a national cheer competition in Orlando, Florida. This year, they deserve another chance and are ready to prove that they are nothing short of amazing.
But the price tag is the biggest obstacle in their way. Cheerleading in the city is not recognized as a sport and receives very little sporting funding.
The young women on the squad recognize systemic inequality.
“It’s kind of disappointing because I think if we get down to the soul purpose of why cheerleaders don’t get funded in New York State, it’s mostly because of the misogyny and a lot of people I talk to have misconceptions about it cheerleading,” cheerleader Grace A Ayodele said.
For any doubts, all they have to do is look at the strength, discipline, perseverance, skill and confidence that 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 very stressful, so for our team, to be ready, not only physically, there must be mental preparation,” said coach Giana Quinterno. “So, that is working on our communication within the team, it is working on developing leadership. Honestly dealing with stress. I think that stress management is a huge thing for any athlete.”
To make it to Nationals, however, they’ll need to raise $30,000 in less than a month.
It’s a small price, if you think about it, to support a team that does more than cheer.
“There were times I didn’t feel very motivated to sit there and go through a whole rehearsal and Gianna will talk to me and use it as an outlet to kind of get my emotions out,” Alois said. “Like all the stress or sadness and anger that I have, to leave it all on the mat and express myself through cheer.”
The team has set up a GoFundMe page, which you can contribute to, to help make their dream come true.
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