Thurston Spirit Squad: 'Go out there and be brave, and just stand up for your school'
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - When the Spirit Squad performs at Thurston High School, everyone is on their feet.
"When you see her take the floor and have her in front of 1,500 people and say 'It's showtime,' you just - the hair on your arms just tingle," said James Underwood, peer group instructor at Thurston High School.
Students are singing along, clapping their hands.
Labels dissapear, and the school becomes one.
That's what the Spirit Squad helps to do without realizing it.
"The whole entire school gets up for them when they perform and claps for them and says the word with them," Lindsey Perryman said. "You can see in their faces that they're having the times of their life, and I think that's what gets to me and makes me the happiest just to see that."
The Spirit Squad at Thurston High School started 4 years ago when a student, Heidi Brown, decided to put it together for her senior project.
The team is made up of special needs students.
Four years later, the program continues to change lives.
The team practices twice a week and performs 2 to 3 times a year.
"Just you know its kind of good, to go out there and be brave, and just stand up for your school and have a little support and stuff," CJ Covenant said.
The team is coached by students leaders.
By having students with special needs work with the other students in the school, it teaches all students patience and acceptance.
"No matter where I go I know my friends will always be there for me forever," Madison Akin said.
"It makes me want to tear up to think our kids are seeking acceptance and to hear it's being reciprocated by these guys accepting them, just mutual acceptance, it's amazing," said Nancy Berge, the mother of a student on the squad.
The students who participate stand a little taller.
"when they walk down the hallways now you see them high fiving other students, you see students after a pep assembly going great job out there and know them by names, and that is so empowering for the student to be able to walk down the halls and all of sudden not just feel like they're going from point A to point B," Underwood said.
"I like cheer and dance," said Laura Tackett. "They say I'm a famous girl in the high school."
"Just grab 1,500 of their peers' attention and you'll see tears in the stands, you'll see people who were half engaged at the pep assembly all of a sudden have their 100 percent attention focused on the spirit squad," Underwood said.