I was blessed to have been brought up in a very strong Christian home. My parents always taught us that our faith and love for our Lord and Savior was what was most important in this life. We were active members of a church in my hometown and went every Sunday. I also participated in Sunday school where I was able to learn about our Savior with my young peers.
One of the most memorable experiences from my youth was getting baptized in our church at the same time as my four sisters. It was special to share with them as we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. I know I take for granted being raised in such a loving, Christian family, because that is all I have ever known. My older sister and I even chose to get married in the church that we grew up in. To keep His gifts in perspective, I try to give thanks and praise as much as I can because I know that some people did not (or never will) have that kind of upbringing.
Along with church, my story also took shape when my parents put me and my sisters in dance when we were very young. In 9th grade, I moved studios and began dancing at Jill’s Studio of Dance. That move proved to be an amazing blessing from God. During a very vulnerable time of transitioning into high school, my new dance teacher Ms. Jill became the most wonderful Christian mentor. To my surprise, after only one year dancing with her, Ms. Jill asked me to be on the competition team. I was beyond excited because I was able to take more classes with her and be at the studio more often. The studio wasn’t just for drilling our routines, though. Ms. Jill always took time out of every class to praise God and teach us how strong and wonderful His love is for us. We prayed often and grew in our Christian faith while dancing together. Ms. Jill has inspired me to one day open a dance studio, where I can have a the same influence on young girls.
I left Ms Jill’s studio and continued dancing in college for the Auburn University Tiger Paws. I then spent three wonderful years cheering for the NFL, one of which included leading as captain. The Christian mentors that I have had throughout my dancing career have always been really incredible, and the blessings of mentors continued in my professional cheerleading career as well. While I had a strong Christian support system in the pros, being a professional cheerleader came with quite a bit of scrutiny. Sometimes it would be a bit disheartening to have people judge you or think you are less of a Christian because you cheer professionally. Luckily for me – my family, teammates and coaches were great
Christian examples and constantly lifted me up throughout my professional cheerleading career.
I hit what I thought was my first battle of judgement when I initially made Atlanta’s team. My grandparents (Nanna and Pabobby) are some of the strongest Christians I know, and I was a little nervous to tell them I had made a pro cheer team because I didn’t know if their judgement would equal to that of which we experience from fans/outsiders. Well, they were absolutely thrilled and could not be more proud of me! Nanna and Pabobby are now my biggest fans and they make me feel proud of myself as a Christian! My professional coach, Chato, has supported me throughout my NFL cheerleading career as well. If someone ever made me feel less of a person for any reason, I could approach Chato and she would make me realize that the judgements of others will only make us stronger and to stand by our beliefs. My time in the NFL taught me not to let others define what kind of person you are or how strong of a Christian you are… but rather to stand firmly in my beliefs. I am proud because I haven’t changed the person I am because I cheered professionally. In the future, I hope to be a strong Christian example and a hand of support for other young women who will encounter the same scrutiny or struggles. We are just Christian women with a passion for dancing, who happen to cheer for the NFL. It’s only now that I am realizing how incredibly blessed I am to have my Christian faith and my passion for dancing go hand in hand. I thank God everyday for his blessings on me and for the ability to dance. All of the praise goes to Him.