BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The International High School in Long Island City, a small title-one school that caters to students who have been in the United States for less than two years, started the Panthers cheerleading team last year with only 12 students. It has since doubled in size, in addition to gaining attention.
Through its hard work and determination to graduate with better proficiency in English, the team was able to obtain the Verizon Fios sponsorship on pearup.com, which has rewarded it with a $1,000 check, which will go towards new uniforms and trips for team bonding.
“I, as a coach, am so happy with all the progress they’ve made in such a short time,” said Nicholas Pabon, cheerleading coach at the International High School. “I am happy that they are coming to the forefront as ambassadors of the school.”
What makes the Panthers so different from other high school cheerleading teams is that they aren’t just cheerleaders. The team members, who are students from Latin America, Russia, India and more, are not proficient in English, yet they are competing against high school students who have been cheering and speaking English their whole lives. Rather than being the team’s downfall, it is what makes coach Pabon work them harder.
“They are students first,” said Pabon. “So I’m not only teaching them cheers. I’m also trying to help them improve their grades.”
The Panthers practice three days a week for two hours, with the first half of every practice being “the day’s goal,” which is academically related.
“We work on expanding their vocabulary and biology so they’re not only learning new movements but are also learning about what their muscles do and how they work,” said Pabon.
Because all the students on the team migrated from different places, Pabon tries to incorporate all of their cultures into the routines.
Although the students all speak their native languages, Pabon said that the practices are mostly movement based so the students are able to catch on and learn the name of the movement.
“The great thing about this is that I am also a para-professional in the school,” said Pabon. “I translate things from in the academic class to after school. I also double-check for clarification.”
Aside from their regular team practices for their school’s sports games, the Panthers are gearing up for the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Empire Regional competition at Nassau Community College on December 10, where they will compete against about 30 schools from all over New York and New Jersey.
The team also performed and participated in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk last weekend.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org