Throughout my years as a high school cheerleader, I have been asked, “Why do you cheer?” My answer has always included various aspects of cheer— performing, supporting others and stunting on the sidelines. But I also love something bigger than just cheerleading, something that seems to get lost in the mix of it all.

 The reason I love cheer is that I love representing my school. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that cheerleaders are viewed as ambassadors of the school. There is no way around it, we are just an essential part of our school’s environment. It took me a couple years to realize the weight of this. It can be nerve-wracking and empowering all at once. Not only do we physically and vocally show support for our sports teams, but we also represent them in our communities. Before we get off the bus, whether we are at a cheer competition, football game, or community event, my coach will always pause to remind us, “Remember who you are representing.” This brings us to ground level. It doesn’t matter if our team wins or if we do well at competition, we still are representatives of our school. We still need to be our best selves on and off the mat.

 In my small town, everyone knows everything about everyone, so there is this underlying responsibility to always portray a positive, safe and welcoming attitude. Anywhere you are, people recognize you and associate you with the school you are from. As cheerleaders, you must realize the power this holds. You have the power to show your community how welcoming your team is. You have the power to lift others up, even after a bad loss. You have the power to stand up for others. You have the power to be kind and show others that being kind is cool. You have the power to impact others. You are so much more than pom poms and dances on the sidelines at the football games. You are kind and you are inspiring to others.

You will leave a legacy when you graduate. What do you want it to be? How do you want to represent your school? This is the reason I cheer, to leave a positive legacy behind for my team, my school and my community.

— Allie Haugen, Meridian High School, Washington