John Bowne High School will host its first cheerleading competition on March 9, after starting its own successful program two years ago.
The event, which begins at 11 a.m., is open to city schools for all ages and divisions and will feature a certified panel of judges. Bowne is located at 63-25 Main St. in Flushing.
But what the high school is really cheering about is the squad itself, now comprising 35 girls with 20 on varsity. Bowne alumni Nicholas Pabon organized the group and serves as volunteer coach.
“It’s made a tremendous difference in the school,” Pabon said. “It has changed the school completely with the teams working harder and cheerleaders doing better in school.”
The squad also takes part in other school events besides basketball, soccer and other sports events, such as college nights, and by getting involved, “these young ladies are changing the face of this Flushing community,” he added.
Pabon started high school in the Bronx,where he was a member of the cheerleading squad, but when he moved to Bowne there was no such group. “I got art teacher Melissa Alvarez interested and we started,” he said. Now a college student at St. Joseph’s in Brooklyn, Pabon wants to become a teacher and is working part-time in retail.
Last year, there were four boys on the team, but they graduated and Pabon says it’s hard to find replacements. The girls, however, take the program very seriously, practicing up to four days a week and taking extra classes in tumbling at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. They pay for individual lessons and Bowne pays for some joint classes.
“They are very good,” the coach said, “and have won several competitions, have attended camps and conferences.”
He credits cheerleading with more of the participants going on to college and many more out of state. “Some kids weren’t doing well in school, but they have to maintain a B average to stay on the squad and the school offers them help and now they are on to college,” Pabon added.
“Most importantly,” he said, “the training has given them higher self-esteem and confidence and now they are working with younger girls on positive self-images.”
He hopes to expand the team next year and the school has promised new blue and white uniforms and practice mats.
Pabon noted that only a handful of schools in Queens have such teams. “Some have cheerleading clubs, but not teams, and we are getting a lot of encouragement from school officials.”
The young coach is also excited about the upcoming competition with at least 12 teams competing and York and Brooklyn college cheerleaders performing. Although it’s a competition for high school, Pabon said at least four middle schools will be attending too.
For more information on the March program and to register, contact Alvarez at email@example.com.