Cheering for happiness

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being happy is one of the qualifications to be a cheerleader, but for one Escambia County Middle School cheerleader, cheering is what makes her happy.

Marina Whatley, a seventh grade special needs student at ECMS, is in her first year of cheering for the Eagles’ squad, and gets joy out of just wearing the uniform.

Whatley said her decision to become a cheerleader came after she danced for the school during her sixth grade year.

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“I was on the creative dance team last year,” Whatley said. “I liked being in front of people and dancing, so I decided I wanted to cheer.”

For Whatley, being in front of people and making them happy is something that she enjoys being able to do.

She said having a uniform and seeing all the students cheering is one of her favorite things about cheerleading.

“I really like wearing my uniform,” she said. “Seeing all of the children and other students cheer and watch us makes me happy too.”

Whatley’s venture into cheerleading has had an impact on the entire school.

Linda Shuford, principal of ECMS, said Whatley has given the school a lot to cheer about.

“Marina making the cheerleading squad really boosted our perception with the state department,” Shuford said. “We got a lot of high ratings because of her being on the squad. It says that at our school we don’t make our students feel different. We make each one feel as comfortable as we can.”

Whatley has also helped with the self-esteem of her classmates.

Ms. Howard, Whatley’s teacher, said she has been a given a good boost to her class’ morale.

“It has been such an encouragement for her to want to do something,” Howard said. “It has helped with all of the other students in my class. All of them want to go places and go on field trips. I always make sure to treat them like any other student. They don’t know they are different, so I don’t treat them like they are.”

It has not been all fun and games for Whatley though. She has had to put in all of the hard work just like the other girls in her squad.

Whatley said the toughest thing about being a cheerleader is learning kicks.

“Learning how to do all of the kicks was hard to do,” Whatley said. “Practicing and watching the other girls helped make it easier to learn though. My favorite cheer to do is ‘Get on Up’ because the other students like to hear it the most.”

With one more year to go in middle school, Whatley plans to continue to cheer.

She said she will even try to cheer when she makes it to the high school.

“I’ve really enjoyed becoming friends with all of the girls,” Whatley said. “I’m going to cheer next year, and cheer when I get to high school too.”

With at least five years of cheering left ahead of her, Whatley will have plenty of time to perfect her kicks and continue making students and fans happy with a smile on her face.

Escambia County Middle School cheerleader Marina Whatley, foreground, is surrounded by her squad during a middle school football game last Thursday at Herbert Barnes Stadium.|Photo by Chandler Myers|