Schenectady cheerleaders pressed to fund trip

Schenectady’s cheerleaders have an embarrassment of riches.
The Schenectady High School Cheerleading Squad will head to the Gator Bowl to perform on January 2 if the team can raise enough money.
The Schenectady High School Cheerleading Squad will head to the Gator Bowl to perform on January 2 if the team can raise enough money.

Schenectady’s cheerleaders have an embarrassment of riches.

The good: their talent got them noticed at a national cheerleading camp this summer — and got them invited to cheer at the Gator Bowl, one of the big college football games.

The problem: somehow, 19 inner-city girls have to come up with $30,000 to get there.

This fall, they’ve tried the traditional — car washes and outright pleading to family members — and then went door to door asking businesses for sponsorships.

They even cheered and danced outside a McDonald’s and worked the counter inside. A night’s work netted just $400 — a long, long way from $30,000.

In eight weeks, they’ve managed to raise $10,000.

“$10,000 in eight weeks was pretty phenomenal, I think,” said coach Amy Preston.

But they have to double that accomplishment in the next eight weeks.

They plan to fly to Jacksonville, Fla. on Dec. 30, and spend four days practicing a professionally choreographed half-time performance with other cheerleaders, bands and color guards. On Jan. 2, they’ll perform during the Gator Bowl.

When the organizers first called Preston to invite the team to Florida, she discounted it.

“We get a lot of national competitions soliciting people to come,” she said.

But this time, the invitation was serious.

Only 30 teams were invited. Each was chosen after organizers saw the team in action and recommended them for the big game.

They saw Schenectady at the National Cheerleaders Association Camp.

Given the high profile of the game, and the limited number of teams that were invited, Preston said yes.

“The experience will be eye-opening. To get them out of Schenectady, to see what’s out there,” Preston said. “I just know how life-changing it was for me.”

When Preston was in high school, she was invited to England with three other cheerleaders from her all-star squad.

“I’d never been outside the country before,” she said.

She met other American cheerleaders, from other parts of the country, and toured a world she had never imagined. She was inspired by the historical sites she visited, and became a history teacher. She now teaches at Mont Pleasant Middle School.

She’s hoping her students will be just as inspired by all the college athletes they see.

“For our kids, [going to] college is a huge thing. I’m hoping to open their eyes. ‘Look at all the colleges. There are colleges here, and here, and here too. You could do two years at community college and then go here …’ ” she said.

In the meantime, she’s pleased that the girls are having to work hard to raise the money.

Learning to write a sales pitch, and deliver it face to face at the various businesses, has been great experience, she said.

They’ve also put a paypal donations button on their website — — and they’re hoping to raise money at a cheerleading clinic on Dec. 10.

They will teach elementary school students a cheer and then help them perform at the first home game of the boys varsity basketball team.

“The responsibility that they’re earning with this! The fundraising part is huge. They’re getting so much out of this,” Preston said.

Now it’s just a matter of getting enough money to go.

Categories: Schenectady County

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