By Autumn Copeland
Monday, June 26 to Thursday, June 29, the Devine High School cheer team and sponsors hosted the 40th year of Mini Cheer Camp.
At Mini Cheer and Dance Camp, young cheerleaders from the area attend a four day-long camp where they work with the high school cheerleaders to learn routines and dances, even getting to perform for their loved ones on their last day.
The tradition started 40 years ago at Devine High School when several different summer camps were set up through the Devine Community Education Program by Dora Fernandez. The high school cheerleaders were asked to host a cheer camp, so they volunteered their time to teach younger kids all about the ins and outs of cheerleading.
Cindy Morales was a cheerleader at the time the first mini cheer camp was held during the summer before her senior year of high school in 1983. Morales enjoyed cheer camp because she had the opportunity to work with the youth.
“My favorite part was teaching traditional cheers that have carried on throughout the years,” said Morales. “Tradition is so important for schools.”
The first cheer camp was held in the old high school gym just like it is now, but the camp lasted for five days and campers would pay $25. Now campers pay $45-$65, depending on their grade level. The money raised from cheer camp has to be stretched throughout the year since cheer is not a part of athletics at DHS. The money pays for things like pep rally decorations, tryout choreography, judges and an auditor for scoring.
“This year’s money will go to much needed cheer equipment to make Friday night football a better experience for everyone,” said DHS cheer sponsor Alejandra Valdez. “The girls have to raise money for anything and everything they do.”
Senior lieutenant cheerleader Yancey Parson says her dreams have come to life since becoming a cheerleader. She always looked up to the older girls during her days at cheer camp as a little girl and now she gets to be an inspiration for the younger campers.
“One thing I’ve noticed is how much these little girls look up to you and want to be your friend and dance with you, or even watch them dance with their groups,” said Parson. “It reminds me of myself at their age.”
For the older generations of cheerleaders and mini cheer campers, the hopes to continue teaching Devine pride through deep traditions remain high.
“It gives my heart joy to see cheer camp continue 40 years later,” said Morales as she watched granddaughters Reese and Riley cheer at camp.
By Autumn Copeland