The cheerleader’s place in the pop cultural zeitgeist is not an entirely flattering position. They often are depicted as pretty, popular, enthusiastic and athletic, sure, but with almost equal frequency are shown as petty, political and noninclusive.
In any case, being picked (or not picked) for the cheerleading squad means a great deal to a great many American high school girls, and counted among them is Rachel Massingale of Centennial High School in Boise, Idaho.
"She loves to perform in front of people,” Massingale’s mother, Denise, told KTVB-TV in Boise.
And in a single act of mass obliteration of negative cheerleading stereotypes, Rachel Massingale, who has Down syndrome, made the cheering squad at Centennial High.
"I think I’m part of the team,” she told KTVB. “And I’m really happy because I am.”
The Centennial cheerleading squad has 52 cheers to memorize and perform, and thanks to some help from an individual cheer coach, Melissa Casey, Rachel has them all down.
”I was a little bit nervous," Casey said. "But boy she is a trooper and has learned them all. She has even added her own little spirit to them."
If the objective of cheerleading is to encourage and inspire, Rachel Massingale might be one of the best there is.
"I am very inspired by Rachel, I think she’s taught us all a lot" fellow cheerleader Mika Muta said. "She always gives 100 percent."