By Caroline Hager and Ellie Alholm
Batavia High School’s new program, “Cheer Buddies,” is a partnership between the cheer team and BHS VTP (Vocational Transition Program) that helps students with intellectual disabilities or Autism cheer. Their first basketball game that they will be cheering at is on Nov. 30.
Students from VTP will be participating in hour-long practices once a week, where they will learn motions, cheers, jumps, and possibly a stunt in the future, as well as working on their bulldog spirit. At home games, they will cheer for the first half of the game and do a routine with the cheerleaders in between quarters. There are six games on the calendar that they will be cheering with the cheerleaders.
Head cheerleading coach Molly Jackson believes that “Cheer Buddies” will have a positive impact on our school culture. It adds school spirit and allows VTP students to take pride in BHS.
“I love the idea of VTP students being seen and acknowledged by their peers and showing that they’re a part of our school,” Jackson said. “Plus, now we will have 9-10 extra people with our cheer team cheering on basketball, which means more overall Bulldog spirit!”
This is the first year of Cheer Buddies. Head coach Molly Jackson, assistant director of special education Mrs. Anderson, and former head coach Jennifer Melendez have been constructing this idea for the past two years.
“Honestly, I would give her (Mrs. Anderson) all the credit, “ said Coach Jackson. “She is coming in to help each week and reliving her glory days as a cheer coach.”
One goal of the VTP program is to provide vocational opportunities within the community. Cheer buddy mentors guide students and create an opportunity for them to meet new people.
“Cheer buddies affect BHS because it is unifying different programs within our school… Some even said they have always wanted to be cheerleaders… I have only spent one day cheering with my buddy, but we are already developing a bond,” said BHS cheerleader Johanna Shubert.
Cheer Buddies provides an opportunity for VTP students to both learn, and grow their skills.
“Provide vocational opportunities in the classroom, school, and community,” said BPS 101, when explaining the goals of the VTP program.
The Vocational Transition Program also focuses on functional academics, life skills, and pragmatic language skills. Cheer Buddies showcases these skills.
“It really gives awareness to the VTP program and just shows that anyone can do anything,” said Maya Wondolowski another BHS cheerleader.