Between the tech shows and the nudist protests, every so often a really great assignment comes my way. This one was from the San Francisco Chronicle and the accompanying story can be found here.
Angel is a sophomore at Sequoia High School in Redwood City. She lives with spina bifida which ultimately means she uses a wheelchair. More interestingly, Angel was recently accepted on to the JV cheer leading squad at her high school.
Is was pretty clear why Angel had beaten out several dozen other students for the spot on the team. Sure she cannot do high kicks or hold another cheerleader in the air. So what she lacks in mobility she overwhelmingly makes up for in smiles, volume and positivity (i.e. spirit).
Before I arrived I had the story in my head, “disabled person overcomes the odds to do something able bodied people take for granted.” Maybe not a cliche, but definitely a story that has been told a lot.
But when I arrived, I realized there was a better story in all this. Less about a young girl over coming her difficulties, but more about a cheer leading squad ignoring what would normally be accepted aversion to a disabled person.
It is very easy, and commonly accepted for people to not interact with or accept disabled people. The training begins at young age when we separating the different kids with the normal kids, never to see each other in school or sports.
But this squad and their coach (far right in the image below), ignored that social status quo and not only accepted Angel for who she was, but embraced her. Teammates took turns helping push Angels chair around the field and everyone did their part to make sure she was seen as a vital member of the squad.
Sure Angel’s story of overcoming the odds is an interesting and hart-warming narrative. But the new story is Sequoia High School junior varsity cheer team’s well roundness. Not only is Angel better off as a member of the team, but so are the rest of the girls who are getting the chance to be on a team with Angel.