The swish of pompoms, the pounding of feet and the shouts of eager teenagers filled the air at Perkins School for the Blind’s Lower School gym on Monday, as cheerleading teams from Perkins and Watertown High School met to swap cheers and meet new friends.
On that afternoon, it didn’t matter whether the cheerleaders were blind or sighted; deaf or hearing; in a wheelchair or able to do a backflip. Their love of cheering – for themselves, their friends and their school – brought them together.
“Cheerleading is really fun, and it’s an activity that anyone can do,” said Perkins physical education teacher Tracey Polimeno. “It’s one of our most popular sports. You don’t need a lot of adaptations or outside equipment. You can wave your pompoms, stomp your feet, use sign language or do what you can to the best of your ability.”
At the swap, the two teams lined up to show each other their favorite cheers. About 20 Perkins students, led by coaches Emma Sobolov and Megan Owens, began with “Cha Cha Boochie.”
“That’s their favorite,” said Polimeno. “They introduce themselves and say two things they like. Everyone has an individual part and you cheer for each person.”
In their cheers, the students shared everything from their love of Dunkin’ Donuts to playing board games to dancing, then capped off their facts with an ebullient, “So check me out!”
They performed five other traditional Perkins cheers, then turned the floor over to Watertown. Encouraged by the shouts and claps of the Perkins students, the Watertown team even did a stunt, flinging a student into the air and catching him.
After they cheered, the students mingled. Secondary Program student Alex showed off his talking watch to Watertown sophomore Shelby, while Secondary Program student Patrick chatted about the Patriots’ Super Bowl win and Lady Gaga’s halftime performance with Watertown junior Liam.
Lower School student Zoey couldn’t stop thinking about the stunt – she loved the idea of being lifted in the air. But she wanted to know: “Is it scary?” Watertown sophomore Marcus, the student who was tossed in the air, told her that with plenty of practice, it’s just fun.
“It’s great for our students to meet new people,” said Polimeno. This is the second year the Watertown squad has come to Perkins, and she hopes to set up other swaps before the cheerleading season ends in mid-March. “They can say, ‘Hey, we’re the same! We’re cheerleaders!’ They’re being recognized for their abilities and what they can do.”
Secondary Program student Patrick chatted with several Watertown High School cheerleaders.