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New cheer club sets sights high

Mills College may not have a football team, softball team, or a basketball team, but we’re about to have a cheer squad.

Two sophomores, Cheryl Reed and Alex Shepperd, have taken it upon themselves to start a cheerleading club at Mills, something many other universities have already established.

Reed and Shepperd, the cheer captains, said the club welcomes both students with some cheerleading background and those who have no experience at all. What is most important to them is boosting Cyclone spirit at games.

“I noticed that there was not a lot of spirit at the volleyball games,” Shepperd said. “I seemed to be the only one that was like ‘Woo!’ and everyone looked at me like I was crazy, so I thought we should probably do something about this.”

Mills’ Athletic, Physical Education, and Recreation Department (APER) are advising the cheer squad. After speaking with tennis coach Loke Davis, Shepperd and Reed had a meeting set up with Director of Athletics Themy Adachi and a proposal to start their club in their hands.

“It just kind of started happening meeting by meeting — becoming a squad,” Reed said.

Shepperd and Reed have set their sights on a long-range goal for their new club: within five years, the fledgling cheer squad hopes to have developed into the Mills College competitive cheer team.

Along with getting the club off the ground, Shepperd and Reed are also planning fundraising initiatives for a coach.

“For next fall, we want to have fundraised enough money for a coach, and they can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000,” Reed said. “We need a coach to help us move on to stunting and progress to become a more official team.”

The squad is working with the American Association for Cheerleading, which is in compliance with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Although Mills is a Division 3 school, the squad would be able to compete in the all-women’s collegiate division. The American Association for Cheerleading also sorts the teams into size divisions — small, medium, and large. Shepperd and Reed are hoping to have a minimum of 12 students on the squad after the first round of auditions and then have another audition in Fall 2013 to accommodate any new students who are interested in being part of the spirit the squad wants to bring to campus.

“We attended the last swim meet,” cheer club president Fatima Sugapong said. “It was their last home meet and they really appreciated it.”

The captains are aiming to create a diverse squad that will reflect the diversity present among the student body on campus. They are hoping to create a club that students will treat as an athletic commitment and a way to channel their enthusiasm, spirit and individuality into campus events.

“We don’t want a cheer team where everyone is a size two, blonde, has blue eyes, straight — it’s not about that,” Reed said. “It’s about everyone having Cyclone spirit.”

With popular television shows like “Glee” and films like “Bring It On” and “Fired Up,” cheerleaders are typically portrayed as the “popular” girls with attitudes that embody the constant pressure society puts on women to be skinny and perfect. The captains and president of the squad said they are committed to debunking the stereotypes surrounding cheerleading and hope to show the Mills community its cheer squad will be a group of proud female leaders.

“One student asked me how we intend on not objectifying ourselves, and obviously that’s not our goal,” Sugapong said. “We just want to raise attendance at sporting events, support our athletes, and at an all-women’s college, how do we not support
our athletes?”

The club has also met with Social Justice Peer Educators at the Diversity and Social Justice Resource Center on campus to discuss creating a team that encompasses all genders and abilities. One of the options they explored was looking at alternative uniforms for students who prefer he and him pronouns.

Reed said the club is committed to finding a place for everyone on the cheer squad.

“We have really been working on how to create a cheerleading team that encompasses social justice, that encompasses not a sisterhood, but a family — everything Mills stands for,” Reed said.