Cheerleaders turn local girls into Little Warriors
by Michael Langley
Sep 06, 2013 | 2030 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With wide-eyes and little gasps of approval, a group of nine young Tracy girls watched from the gazebo at Lincoln Park as a CSU Stanislaus Warriors cheerleader fell from the top of a human pyramid into the waiting arms of two other cheerleaders below.

It was just the beginning of a four-hour clinic Saturday, Aug. 31, in which the cheer team, led by co-captain Emily McNiel, taught the girls a routine to perform at the Tracy Dry Bean Festival on Sunday Sept. 8.

“They are really excited,” McNiel said. “They have never been to a dance class. They have never seen real cheerleaders before, so they are really excited.”

McNiel said she got obsessed about showing the girls how to cheer after her uncle, Tracy Fire Department Capt. Jim Haskell, introduced her to the founder of Case For Kids, Lori Souza. The nonprofit provides gifts of personal necessities to foster children.

The girls all come from foster homes, and Souza believes team activities like the clinic allow the kids to feel a sense of belonging.

“They never get to go into sports or do anything long term,” Souza said, “because generally they are not in the home long enough and the foster care parents don’t have the money to invest in something like that for them.”

McNiel and her team wanted to teach the girls the confidence and teamwork needed in cheerleading.

“It’s really important, especially with stunting, to keep each other safe, keeping each other accountable and responsible,” said the Stanislaus State senior. “We all have to work together to make it look good. So these girls will understand the difference between individual, like dancing, whereas cheer we’re all coming together to make sure that we are all on the same page.”

When the girls perform as a team Sunday on the Little Sprout Stage, they will all be wearing Little Warrior shirts and hair bows, provided by Stanislaus State cheerleaders who taught them.

•Contact Michael Ellis Langley at or 830-4231.

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