Spirit is taking on new meaning at Forest Meadow Junior High with the creation of the Spirit Leaders, a new extracurricular organization for seventh-grade students.
The squad leads cheers for seventh-grade athletic teams and participates in other school activities. Spirit Leaders was offered this semester as part of an effort to encourage attendance and spirit at games, to boost students’ confidence and to increase camaraderie.
The squad has accomplished all of the above, says squad leaders.
"Kids have a tendency to stay in cliques when they come from elementary school, and I think this program has really helped them make new friends and also to boost their self-esteem," says Cissy Porth, seventh-grade speech teacher and co-sponsor.
Co-sponsor Julie Johnson says the squad’s accessibility – there are no try-outs – has been a plus. About 65 girls have joined the squad so far.
"We want everyone to be able to join,” she says. “The uniforms cost $75, but we have scholarships available to the students for the uniform so that money is not even a factor.”
Attendance at games and morale have steadily increased, says Ashanti Williams, student president of Spirit Leaders.
"I really like the program because we get more students to the games, but it also has helped us make good friends that we wouldn’t have made otherwise," she says.
Beyond their duties inside school, the Spirit Leaders are also involved in volunteer projects outside of the classroom, such as the Lake Highlands Recreation Park Halloween Carnival.
"I like being able to be involved in all the things Spirit Leaders do," Williams says. "It’s good preparation for next year."
With a demerit system in place, the girls are also learning a valuable lesson in responsibility, says Porth.
"We like to encourage the girls to be responsible and be held accountable for their actions no matter where they are,” she says.