Hornedo Middle cheerleader Megan Marquez, her navy blue pom-poms tightly clutched in her hands, smiled shyly, expressing in one word how she feels about making the squad: happy.
“I would always tell her, the sky was the limit for her,” mom Margie Marquez said. “She still has some ways to go, but this is another milestone that she has accomplished.”
Born with Down Syndrome, the seventh grader’s hopes and dreams of becoming a cheerleader became a reality this school year after attending a Franklin Cheerleading Camp and trying out. Encouragement from fellow Tornedo cheerleaders gave Megan the confidence to tryout and now cheer at football and volleyball games every Saturday.
Her teacher Laura Stipe couldn’t be prouder of Megan. She encourages and believes in Megan and sees how her contribution to the team spreads universal cheer.
“Megan is a young girl who just wants to fit in and has a dream,” Stipe said. “We all have the same purpose, though not the same start. She has the desire to inspire, live and embrace. She’ll do as we do, but at Megan’s own pace.”
Julie Luther, former Hornedo assistant principal now at Lincoln Middle, was instrumental in encouraging Megan to tryout and watched her as she tried out. “Megan was very reserved in front of the judges, but pulled through and did her routine,” Luther said.
“She has grown so much this school year and I know it’s because of all of the other girls on the squad. If Megan continues to cheer she can be an amazing cheerleader through high school and beyond.”
As the cheer squad gathers, Megan appears to be the center of their attention. They share hugs, high-fives and smiles with Megan and tell her “you look beautiful.” She gushes, loving the attention.
“She loves you guys,” Margie Marquez has told them. “I thank them for accepting her and embracing her.’”
Margie Marquez hopes Megan’s role on the squad inspires more acceptance and an understanding that children with special needs should be included and given the opportunity to reach their dreams.
“This means a lot to her and will help her continue taking those baby steps that will eventually help her achieve greater things in life,” she said. “Life with Megan is like a rollercoaster and we will continue enjoying the ride and invite anyone that would like to tag along to join us.”
Margie Marquez is grateful to the other cheerleaders, Stipe and cheerleading coach Marisa Marin for helping Megan learn the routines and giving her a chance.
“The simple fact that she stands out there in front of a crowd is a lot and I give her so much credit for that alone,” Margie Marquez said. “Being part of the cheerleading squad has helped her slowly come out of her shell.”
Marin sees the determination in Megan’s eyes as she continues to learn cheers.
“I have received many positive comments from the cheerleaders, parents, teachers, and administrators about how great it is to see Megan be a part of the cheerleading squad,” Marin said. “Megan makes this squad and Hornedo extra special and sets us apart from all the other middle schools.”
Marin finds Megan’s excitement and cheerful spirit infectious – the glue that bonds the squad.
“Her participation in cheerleading has sent a positive message for the squad and school that anyone can do anything they set their mind to do.”
Author: El Paso ISD