“Mrs. Shonny is the type of person who says ‘You can do it. Don’t give up,’” Haley Valente said.
She is one of the eight cheerleaders from the Governor Morehead School. It’s a school for the legally blind located near Pullen Park.
Legal blindness is a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye. Legally blind is a range of impaired vision, ranging from light perception to some vision.
The school has dormitory facilities where many students reside since many students come from all over the state.
When I walked in the building to interview the girls, I didn’t know what to expect.
What I found was that they didn’t care that I was hearing impaired, and I didn’t care that they were blind. We were all fellow cheerleaders and high school students.
I followed them to the library where one of the cheerleaders, Antoinette Ray, was already and dancing in the doorway to some music in her head. The girls were speaking to each other in excitement; the school day just finished.
There are eight girls on the team and only one, Jessica Allred, was unable to attend. We sat around the library table and Coach Shonny handed the stage to me after we went around to identify ourselves. We laughed a bit at how I misspelled their names before settling in.
Each of the team members had an individual light, something that makes each of them shine in her own way. I don’t think I’ve met such a group as welcoming and joyous as them. They truly do not care who you are or where you come from; they’ll take you scars and all.
“We all live with each other and see each other all the time, so we’re kind of like a family,” Ray stated.
People with vision may believe that people who have limited or no sight are at a disadvantage in what life has to offer, but just talking to the girls would blow that thought right out the water. They participate in many extracurriculars that stump me on how they can juggle all of these activities with so little time in a day.
“I like art and reading. I’ve done goal ball, track, and Model United Nations. I’ve very interested in international relations and might get a career in it,” Adia Barry said. Goalball is a sport that has some aspects of soccer and dodgeball and a bit of pain on the side.
Valente said that she loves plays, even going as far as writing one herself. She loves theater and math, and is computer savvy.
“I’ve had a history with cheerleading. I’ve done cheerleading in the past and I like it. I don’t think I could’ve done it at my old school so I tried it here. I didn’t think I’d do as good as I did here,” Margaret Quincy said.
Kimmie Richter competitively swims and also plays goalball. A lot of the other girls have also played goalball at least once and some participate in chorus.
Even though they have very busy lives, they all couldn’t imagine it any other way All the girls collectively agreed that they had imagined themselves doing cheer when they were young.
“My parents bought me two different colored poms poms. I used to go outside in the front yard and cheer,” Danielle Jones said.
Cheerleading also consists of competitions where teams show off a carefully practiced and hopefully well-executed routine.
“For competition, my favorite part is getting to hear them cheer for us at the end…but sometimes they don’t wait until the end,” Savannah Stanley said. “This was my first year ever competing in a tournament. The bleachers were full of people. We were looking at them. I was so nervous; I’m glad I didn’t mess up.”
However, it’s not only the sheer amount of people staring, but nerves can form because of who the crowd consists of: “I was nervous. It was my first time competing in front of my family,” Jones said.
“You just look at all these people and they’re all looking at you. It’s very intimidating,” Richter said.
Cheerleading is something one either loves or hate, but with differing levels of difficulty, anyone can participate. The girls have a few stunts they have incorporated into their routine with a cheer and dance. Some of the words in their cheer was: “If we can do it, you can do it,”
Listen to what these beautiful young ladies chant and let it inspire you.
Go after what you want and give it your best.