By Fatima Tuz-Zahra (YES 2019-2020, Pakistan, hosted by PAX in Milwaukee, WI)
"A year in the life." Indeed, that's what everyone told me before I arrived in the U.S. I couldn't be more excited. I wanted to try everything I could and take advantage of all the opportunities presented to me because, in reality, one year may seem like a long period of time, but it flies by so quickly that you won't realize it's already been a year. Because I arrived after the beginning of the school year, I missed a lot of schoolwork. I didn't want my grades to fall behind, so I worked hard on them. Since I was focusing on my academics, I was unable to join fall sports. When I finally had the time to participate in school sports, I didn't have any specific sport in mind, but it had never crossed my mind to join cheer.
When tryouts cam, I thought to just give it a shot. After all, if you don't grab the opportunity when it's in front of you, you won't get the chance to do so again. Cheer seems so easy: wearing cute uniforms and bows, holding pom poms, and singing during games. However, it's much more than that. It requires so much practice and hard work to get those cute cheers perfect. I couldn't picture myself being a cheerleader who wears a hijab, but I did it and, to my surprise, everyone encouraged me. The whole team was there to raise my spirits when I felt sad and they supported me like sisters. I found my best friends in the cheer squad and every moment I spent with them was amazing, even the most difficult workouts! At the start, I couldn't do the splits or jumps or even tumbles. But as the season started, I finally got a hang of it and learned all the cheers, and I was able to master the dances, splits, jumps, and tumbles.
The best part about cheer wasn't the bows or the uniforms, although it is something everyone looked forward to wearing. The best part about being in this squad was the everlasting bonds we built during all those ugly sweater parties, the powwows, and the ten minutes of halftime. Through cheer, I learned how to be the best version of myself in any given situation and to never give up. I hope to always keep the lessons I learned through cheer with me in the future!