The Heart of the Pride

The varsity cheer team performs a routine with special needs students on the Heart of the Pride team. The routine was performed at the Wake County Cheerleading Championship last Saturday. (Photo courtesy of @cheer_lrhs twitter)

When someone first thinks of cheerleading, the first thing that comes to people’s heads is most likely not special needs; however, the co-ed cheer team at Leesville is changing that. Started in 2015 by former student and junior at the time Ashley Van Slyck, the special education cheer team lets kids with disabilities have fun in a sport that is not usually designed for kids with disabilities.

There are two different classes of kids, a lower skill level class and a higher skill level class. Every Monday during B lunch, the varsity cheer team gathers with the kids to practice a special routine. The kids — called the Heart of the Pride — practice motion drills, jumps, basic stunts, and play games together all while hanging out with the varsity cheer team.

The current head of the club Kristin Greene, junior, took over when Van Slyck graduated in 2016. “I like seeing how [the cheer team] helps the kids and how happy they get being able to get to do stuff like this.”

The kids and team practice a special routine together to prepare for the Wake County Cheerleading Championship which occured on January 27 of this year and the Special Olympics which will occur sometime this May and June.

“The kids love it. Every time we compete, their faces just light up seeing everybody cheer for them. I think it helps them a lot to be exposed to more, instead of just saying in the classroom all day, and be exposed to more real world opportunities,” said Greene.

The Heart of the Pride is a great way for kids with special needs to show off their and skills and be exposed to the world of sports, all while hanging out with other high school kids their age.

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