Meet Kiera and Francesca…two perfect strangers living in different states, brought together on a trip abroad because of their talent and love for cheerleading. This is the All-American dream.
Kiera Beak is a 16-year-old junior from Lake Geneva, WI. She has been cheering most of her life, now on both her Badger High School cheer squad and her local all-star team at Fire House Gym. After attending a home camp put on by UCA last summer, Kiera was selected as an All-American and immediately had goals to take advantage of the travel opportunities. “When I was selected, I was so incredibly excited, especially because one of my really great friends also made it. We had told each other that if we were both picked, we would be going to London together.”
After getting the go-ahead from her parents for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Kiera made plans to take the London Varsity Tour. When the time came to board the flight, she felt a little nervous about leaving the comforts of home. “It was definitely nerve wracking not having my parents. It was my first time out of the States, so I was very nervous. I had to get a passport and I hadn’t been on a plane in a long time.” But fortunately, those nervous feelings were short lived. “The traveling ended up being great, and I made new friends and lots of fun memories on the plane!”
One of those new friends was 18-year-old Francesca DeCastris, then a high school senior at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, IL. She also had spent the majority of her life cheering and was beyond thrilled to make the All-American team the previous summer at UCA Kalahari Cheer Camp. “Since my freshman year, I have always looked up to my seniors as they tried out for All-American knowing that when I became a senior it would be my time. My coaches only allow seniors to try out since it is their year to shine. It was one of the goals I wanted to accomplish my senior year and if I made it I knew I would absolutely go on the trip to London.”
So she, too, hopped on the plane to London, but unlike Kiera, Francesca did not have any of her teammates to keep her company. “I love meeting new people, especially cheerleaders – it is so cool to meet others who have the same drive and passion for our sport. My chaperone and another chaperone were close friends named Katie and Rachel, so our two groups spent a lot of time together, which was double the fun!”
Kiera agrees, “We really merged together to make one big group and that was one of the best things that happened on the trip. I met so many new girls that I wouldn’t trade in a million years. I became so close with these new friends and we told each other everything. We stuck together and became a family and are all still in touch.” In fact, she says they are “planning a trip to Chicago this summer to meet up again.”
The love of cheerleading brought the two girls together, and they did indeed spend plenty of time sharing that love getting prepared for their London parade debut. While Francesca admits to being a bit nervous when seeing the routine for the first time, Kiera initially felt more confident. “I have been performing all my life and this would be no big deal. I was picked for a reason, right?”
The two cheerleaders were in agreement, though, about having pre-performance jitters! Kiera says, “Once I got to the parade and realized it was in front of so many more people than I have ever performed in front of before and was on live TV, the nerves did set in a bit!” As soon as the music started, however, Francesca relaxed and enjoyed herself. “The adrenaline kicks in and you feed off the crowd. After the first time I was so ready to do it a billion times more! It started to drizzle a bit, which made it even more fun. I loved the crowds in London because they were so excited and amazed to see us. It was fun to share our American culture with them!”
The British people returned the favor and shared quite a bit of culture with them as well! Kiera remembers, “On one of our first nights in the country we decided to get fish and chips because that’s a huge part of the British experience. It was delicious, but as we were moving the fish aside to get to the fries, we realized that the eye was still there. We had never seen anything like that, so we immediately started squealing! Just then a couple of true Englishmen walked by and obviously realized what was happening so we all started laughing so hard.”
One of Francesca’s favorite memories, she says, was riding the London Eye. “Even though it doesn’t seem that exciting, it’s an icon of London that I got to experience, and not everyone can say they rode the world’s largest Ferris wheel!” The girls visited many other famous tourist attractions on their trip to London, including St. Paul Cathedral, and they loved shopping at Piccadilly Circus.
When asked if they would recommend the trip to this year’s All-Americans, both girls enthusiastically agreed that they would. “This trip has made me grow as a person and as a cheerleader in such a positive way,” gushes Kiera. “It has given me confidence and taught me how to be social and I learned about a unique and rich culture. Plus, it’s given me new friendships that will last a lifetime. Look at us! We still all keep in touch.”
Francesca strongly agrees. “I would definitely recommend All-Americans taking this trip! It was a chance of a lifetime that I will never forget. Not only do you get to cheer in front of a crowd in a historical parade, but you get to visit a foreign country, make new friends and, most importantly, make memories. Who can say that they got an opportunity to do what they love (cheer) and visit an amazing country at the same time? It is a great experience that I wouldn’t pass up and if I had the chance to go on the trip again, I would say yes in a heartbeat!”
For more information on travel opportunities for All-Americans, visit www.varsity.com.