LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — A public high school cheerleading squad is asking for help to keep their cheer program going.
The girls from the Seward Park High School Campus have started a GoFundMe page. Giana Quinterno coaches the team.
“The more contributions that we have is less of a burden on our families to make a contribution to be in this expensive sport,” said Quinterno. “I think it’s always in danger of how do we keep the program alive? Because there’s not the support from the athletic department.”
Cheerleading is not recognized as a sport by the Public School Athletic League, so the squad doesn’t qualify for funding.
The team is hoping to raise $30,000, money that will go towards much needed items from uniforms to training to travel. Uniforms alone cost $350 each.
Theirs is a Cinderella story. The cheerleading squad is made up of 16 girls, many of whom never cheered until they joined this team. There wasn’t even a cheerleading program at the school until several years ago.
The Seward Park campus is made up of several schools, including New Design H.S. and Essex Street Academy. Quinterno is a social worker at New Design H.S. She coaches the girls squad on a volunteer, unpaid basis. She launched the cheer program in 2015.
The squad has to use the weight room as a practice area, at times. They’ve had to wear hand-me down uniforms and they consistently work with lack of equipment. For instance, they work with three mats, as opposed to the needed nine. However, none of that deterred these young women.
Celese Seabrooks is a 17-year-old senior at Essex Street Academy and she’s also captain of the squad.
“The biggest misconception I would say is we just dance, or we just do cheers and that’s it,” said Seabrooks. “But we’re competitive cheerleaders, so we actually compete.”
The squad with little experience learned and grew together and then the improbable happened. They made it to the National Championships in Orlando last February. They are believed to be only the second New York City public high school to make it to the elite cheer competition.
“People see us as just a team who come from a low-income background who just happened to go to Nationals,” said Jasmine Sosa, a 16-year-old cheerleader who attends New Design H.S. “We’re not just that, we’re a team of girls who showed so much resilience through everything we’re facing, not just a team that got lucky.”
They had to fundraise to attend Nationals in Orlando in February. But now, just months later, instead of building on that success, it may all go away. Traveling to competitions will be in jeopardy and worse, the cheer program will shut down if there’s no funding.
“This is a sport you can take 2, 3-years-old all the way up into college and post-college you can have a career as some form of a pro-athlete,” said Quinterno. “It takes a village to get to Nationals and we’re the cheerleaders, but someone needs to cheer us on.”
Cheerleading is about athleticism and teamwork. It also builds self-confidence and instills in these young women a desire to support other young women.
“One of the more common stereotypes I had growing up is bigger girls can’t be a cheerleader,” said Seabrooks. “Obviously it’s very wrong because I am a bigger girl and I’m actually the captain, so I feel like I’m setting an example for those girls who are on the bigger side or even the girls who just lack confidence and don’t think they can do it, 100% you can do it if you put your mind to it.”
Lineth Vargas, a 16-year-old junior, says the team feels like a family, a sisterhood and she appreciates the donations.
“It makes me try harder the fact that other people are helping us out, it makes me want to work harder because I want to make them proud,” said Vargas.
The team started a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $30,000 that will go towards uniforms, training and travel.