One set of Midlothian parents noticed their daughter had a natural flair needed to leap, tumble and succeed in cheerleading at a very young age.
Ten years ago, at the age of seven, Midlothian Heritage senior Gracie Cleveland was encouraged by those same parents, Bobby and Jennifer Cleveland, to embark on a cheer career. All of that hard work will soon culminate at the world-renowned New Year’s Day Parade in London.
“My cheerleading goals and dreams have finally become reality," said the four-year letterman at Midlothian Heritage. The 17-year-old departed for England on Wednesday as the lone Midlothian ISD cheer representative to attend the parade. Gracie is making the trip with her mother, Jennifer, and grandmother, Margaret "Memaw" Cessna.
Gracie has also been selected to the National Cheerleaders Association’s prestigious “All-American” list three different times during her six years as a junior high and high school cheerleader.
To obtain All-American status, junior high and high school cheerleaders attend cheer camp each summer after making their local cheer team. They generally attend either a Universal Cheerleading Association or a National Cheerleading Association camp.
As a participant, each girl or guy is surrounded by others who share their same love and passion for cheerleading. They are given the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills, while instructors are busy instilling leadership qualities in these teenagers, and as these great young people are creating memorable experiences for a lifetime.
At the end of the camp experience, the top cheerleaders are nominated for a variety of reasons — such as tumbling, jumps, outstanding base, spotting their stunts, outstanding flyer, showmanship, teamwork, etc.
A great number of these cheerleaders are then nominated to further participate in other special cheer events. However, once they are nominated, it is up to the individual cheerleader if they want to learn the try-out routine for the All-American title, and then each person must commit to the final judging.
Gracie has done just that in three different years.
“Gracie’s first year, during her time in junior, the girls that were nominated or won went on to Orlando, Florida to cheer in the Disney Christmas parade. It was pre-recorded and shown on television Christmas morning," Jennifer recalled. "The cheerleaders that represented Midlothian were from Walnut Grove Middle School, Frank Seale Middle School and Midlothian High School.”
Jennifer added, “Gracie had always set goals for herself early-on as a cheerleader to cheer in the Disney Christmas parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. These parades are no longer options or available for NCA in the USA. Now, she has an even better opportunity, and that is to be in the London New Year's Day Parade.”
According to her mother, Gracie had qualified for the London parade last year but was unable to attend due to an injury suffered during competitive cheer with the Spirit of Texas, based in Coppell. She has since fully recovered from the surgery related to the injury and "is making memories as a senior that she will remember all her life," Jennifer noted.
The Cleveland trio plan to arrive in London on Thursday morning and will return home late in the evening on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Upon touchdown in the UK, they will meet other 703 other cheer participants from all around the world.
During their stay, their cheer groups will be treated to guided tours to places like the Royal Palace in Windsor. Their itinerary also includes stops at the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Parliament.
“I am so excited to have this experience with my granddaughter before she graduates," Cessna said. "She is so special to me, and I am extremely proud of all her accomplishments.”
She added, “Gracie is such a self-sufficient young lady. Here I am totally stressing out about the 15-hour flight and worrying about them not getting to sit together on the plane, but she assured me by saying she’d be fine sitting by herself on the long flight. In fact, she gave me some very important advice, 'Go with the flow, Memaw, and don’t stress. Let’s just have a great time together and not worry about the details.'”
And, that is exactly what Gracie plans to do.