Give me an ‘F’ for fundraising!
The cheerleaders at Youngstown State University stunt, tumble, jump and entertain the crowd. They are at every single home football game and basketball game. Occasionally, a lucky few even get to travel to away games.
“We are cheerleading outside of YSU,” said Kelli Young, a senior on the squad.
Members of the squad have the opportunity to participate in community service events such as golf outings and family days at the air force base in Vienna. They keep track of their hours throughout the year, and then the ten girls with the most hours get to be part of the travel team.
The girls take part in community service events such as the Buddy Walk for Down syndrome, an annual celebration held in Boardman to commemorate the milestones of local children and families affected by Down syndrome, where they play games and dance with the kids. They also build pyramids and do cheers they’ve reworked especially for the walk.
Junior Taylor Amato said this is her favorite event to do each year, because it affects so many people all at once.
“I’ll always remember the Buddy Walks, and those kids will always hold a special place in my heart,” Amato said. “They remember us from the year before, and the parents are thankful.”
The squad attends events like the Buddy Walk strictly on a volunteer basis. However, local schools can pay the university to have a group of the YSU cheerleaders choreograph a dance and cheers for their schools as well as host their tryouts. It is also common for another handful of girls from the squad to judge the tryouts.
Amato said she feels good about what they have taught local girls.
“The girls look up to us, and it makes you feel important,” she said.
The team raises the majority of their funds themselves. In addition to the money made from cheerleading clinics, they fundraise through the Penguin Power program. This year, the program required each girl to obtain at least eight sponsors, pledging at least seventy-five dollars apiece.
Michelle Markota has been coaching the YSU cheerleaders for just over a decade. The Penguin Power program has been in place since before she began coaching the squad.
Markota said that the athletic department does start the squad off with a base fund and that they are “a great help with travel costs.”
The money also helps cover the team’s entrance fees for competitions. This season, the squad independently raised over $10,000.
Sophomore Sarah Perry said, “The money raised goes towards new uniforms, shoes, pompoms and warm-ups.”
Markota said that she gives kudos to her girls for volunteering their time — even on the weekends.
“It is positive to represent the university. It is demanding on the girls and is a year round sport. They go to school full time and hold jobs,” she said.