ACTS OF KINDNESS: The Thurston Spirit Squad
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - The Thurston Spirit Squad is getting ready for a big performance this spring, and every week then work on their routine and dance moves.
But it's more than just a cheer team, it's a group of students that comes together to grow as young adults through the class.
This group is something unique at Thurston high School.
It formed back in 2011 by one of Thurston's cheerleaders, and as continued ever since. The gorup meets every week, not only to work on cheers, but also to learn life lessons in the gym and off school grounds.
Not a lot can slow down this spirit squad, and nothing will stop them from getting the crowd warmed up.
The team is made up of students with variations of developmental disabilities, led by a group from the varsity cheer team.
"They really taught me how to not take life so seriously, and that you can have fun while doing things," said McKenzie Stuart, a senior coach. "I think I really needed that in my life, because I'm such a stress person."
Members of the squad say it's an important part of school culture, giving all students the opportunity to break down barriers, and a chance to support each other.
"They're not just the Spirit Squad, they're a pat of Thurston Cheer," said Taylor Westbrooks, another senior coach. "I think it's really awesome for everyone to see that they can be a part of the program with the whole school."
"It just means that I get to make them feel more welcome here and give them the best high school experience they could possibly have," said Sam Langlois, a junior coach.
"I've worked at other high schools, and there was no interaction between the regular student body and the life skill students, so this is so exciting to see," said Diane Stephens, an educational assistant with the Life Skills program.
But it's not just about cheering, it's a chance for the students to get out into the community, and an opportunity for everyone on the Spirit Squad to learn life lessons.