Our school spirit teams are alive and well at Ridgewood. However, that isn’t the case for all students before stepping foot in the RHS small gym. Ridgewood’s Varsity Cheerleading team has been growing over the past year, but for many of the athletes it is their first time ever participating in cheerleading. Two RHS seniors and varsity cheerleaders, Nadleen Mubarak and Natalija Stojkovic, identified this problem and took it upon themselves to find a solution.
Natalija and Nadleen identified this problem in different ways and came together to work on creating the Junior Rebels Cheer Program. Natajila had the idea to create a junior cheer program and Nadleen was already working on figuring out a way to get more involvement in the Ridgewood Cheer Program for her R-gen Passion Project. During a cheer event, the girls were discussing their own passion projects and decided to collaborate together on the idea to create a youth cheer program that would feed into Ridgewood’s cheer program. The former recreational cheerleading program offered to the youth in Norridge and Harwood Heights no longer exists.
“We believe that it is so essential to the development of a child’s character to have a sport that they love to be involved in. When we saw the amazing turnout of the children that came and participated in the Mini Rebels Cheer & Dance Clinic hosted by the Ridgewood High Cheerleading team, we knew there was a need for this program,” said Nadleen.
The girls started officially planning this program in February. They began having weekly meetings with RHS Athletic Director, Rob St. John and Pat Rossi, who is currently creating a Youth Flag Football Program, to discuss the next steps to making this idea a reality. The girls quickly realized how much work it takes to build a program from scratch.
The high school seniors quickly secured two other RHS cheerleading alumni to join their coaching staff and they all completed and obtained certification to be able to coach cheerleading through the NFHS. This certification means they are certified to coach at the high school level, as well as coach cheerleading to younger-level cheerleaders. The next important task they had was to gain a partnership with Norridge Youth Athletics (NYA) Organization. After meeting with the NYA Organization, they were able to negotiate with the NYA board and receive a generous start-up fund and insurance to secure their cheerleaders safety.
RHS Athletic Director, Rob St. John has been an instrumental part of getting this program off the ground and from his support this program will be up and running this summer.
“I am so impressed with Natalija and Nadleen’s commitment, energy and enthusiasm in getting the NYA Junior Rebels Cheerleading Program up and running. They have assembled a strong group of coaches and have done a great deal of work in securing funding from the generous group at the Norridge Youth Association. Natalija meets with me regularly and has been incredibly organized and professional every step of the way,” said St. John.
The cheer program will coordinate and partner with our newly formed Junior Rebel Flag Football Team. The two groups are a natural fit with one another and can navigate their inaugural season together. On a wider scale, the youth cheer program will be the stepping stone into the Ridgewood Cheer Program. RHS Varsity Cheerleading coaches, Emily Arp and Bree Sabin will monitor the youth program and help create a positive culture and relationship between the two groups.
“Having a community-based youth cheer program will be immensely beneficial in many ways. First and foremost the cheerleaders will gain skills in cheer and and develop spirit for the community and its programs,” St. John stated. “We really want to promote school and community spirit that flows naturally from the youth to the high school level. I am looking forward to getting the program going!”
The current date set for registration is April 22, 2020. The program will launch during the summer clinic on June 29, 2020. The program is open to any child who will be in grades 2-8 during the 2020-2021 school year.
If you have any questions or concerns you can contact the coaches via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, you can follow their Instagram page (@jr.rebels.cheer) for updates on information nights and registration.
“We envision this program to be impactful in these young girls and boys' lives. We want the drive and passion to start out in these kids and also let them use it as an outlet for athletic and creative abilities. We want this program to have a big involvement and carry out for many years” said Nadleen.