Effectively demolishing the “dumb cheerleader” stereotype, the Stuyvesant High School cheerleading squad recently topped the Universal Cheerleaders Association regional tournament in Long Island, New York.
The academically excellent and physically skillful squad, consisting mostly of Asian American members, grabbed the victory for the school for the first time ever last Saturday at the competition held at Nassau Community College, according to the New York Post which referred to the team as “New York’s brainiest cheerleaders.”
“Because of how the media portrays cheerleaders, a lot of people don’t realize we aren’t dumb blondes,” 17-year-old member Patricia Tan told the Post in an interview.
“The majority of our team have GPAs above 90 (on a 100-point scale), and they’re working just as hard if not harder than other people at Stuy, because of the work ethic that we’ve come to develop on the team.”
Being the most selective school of the nine specialized high schools in New York City, Stuyvesant, also known as Stuy, is home to some of the smartest students not only in the city but in the entire United States.
What started out merely as a student-run club, the group evolved into a competitive program after certified cheerleading coach Nicholas O’ Stanton discovered their skills at a competition. He reportedly convinced the girls’ faculty adviser to allow him to take over the squad and train them well. The entire co-ed team has 51 students in total, with a varsity roster of 20 members.
O’ Stanton said he understands the prejudice the students face, noting that cheerleaders are often viewed merely as “eye candy.”
“The biggest misconception people have is that it’s not a sport. A lot of people think we are just sideline cheerleaders,” he explained, adding that “there’s a stereotype of promiscuity. Actually, the girls are extremely wholesome.”
Some of the squad members revealed that their families took some convincing to change their negative perceptions about the sport of cheerleading. Even Tan, who began cheerleading as a freshman at Stuyvesant, sometimes encounter some challenges with her parents.
“There (have) been a lot of struggles between me and my parents because cheerleading takes time away from academics,” she revealed. She noted, however, that “when they see it all come together, I think it will finally hit them that (it) is a sport.”
O’ Stanton said the team utilizes proper time management to ensure the team is on track with their studies and cheer practice. He also noted that the quad members study together and even tutor each other when necessary. The coach also noted that the members of the celebrated team are first-generation Americans with immigrant parents who have made great sacrifices to provide good lives for their children.
The team is now gearing up for the UCA Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida, in February 2018.
According to O’ Stanton, the group now will be needing some funds to cover transportation, lodging, registration fees and meals for the duration of the event. He has since launched a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to raise $30,000 to be able to bring the talented team to UCA nationals.
O’ Stanton expressed that it would mean big for the graduating seniors who helped lay the foundation of a champion-ready team. “This is their last chance to compete. For them, this would be a dream,” he said.
Feature image via Instagram/stuycheerleading