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The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

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Airi Thompson 24
Airi Thompson
Assistant News Editor

This is Airi's first year on staff, they are a senior. They are super excited to be this year's Assistant News Editor.

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Q and A with West High cheer captains

De’Jah Jordan ’24 , Rakyra Mcclendon ’24 and Ella Vakiner ’25 reflect and share their experiences as captions of the West High cheer team.
Grace Bartlett
De’Jah Jordan ’24 and Ella Vakiner ’25 clap along to a cheer.

West Side Story: What is your favorite part about being on the cheer team? 

Ella Vakiner: My favorite part of being on the team is the dance parties on the back of the bus and getting ready together as a team before games. 

De’Jah Jordan: I like competing, I love seeing the other cheer teams [at competitions] . 

Rakyra Mcclendon: You can always be yourself, you don’t have to hide yourself for anyone and we all understand each other. 


WSS: How did you get involved with the team? 

EV: One of my best friends told me she was going to try out the summer before our freshman year, so we decided to try out together. I had never considered cheerleading before but after making the team I realized how much I loved it, so I just stuck with it. 

DJ: I had 2 friends who were on the cheer team, they convinced me to try out and I loved it, so I continued doing it with them.

RM: Honestly just being at the basketball games, seeing cheers hype the crowd up really attracted me to cheer. 


WSS: How do you think you’ve contributed to the team? 

EV: I’ve worked really hard to keep the team organized, but I also think I bring good vibes to the team when we need it. 

DJ: I’ve come up with some dances and band chants and it’s really fun to see the team perform them. I also think I bring good energy to the team. 

RM: I try to bring humor to the team and get people out of their comfort zones. I’m never afraid to talk to anyone and I try to make it a safe space. 


WSS: What is your relationship with the cheer coaches like?

EV: I’m definitely really close with both my coaches, I love them a lot. They’ve been a really good support system for me and they always give me good advice. 

DJ: My relationship with the coaches is good, I love them. I know they’ve got my back outside of cheer too, so that’s nice.

RM: I’ve always had a good relationship with my coaches, they balance each other out really well. They’re always understanding and they never push too hard or ask too much of us. They know our capabilities and they do what they came to do. 


WSS: Has being a part of the cheer team helped you in any way? 

EV: I have gained more confidence and definitely improved my leadership skills being a part of the team. 

DJ: I’ve definitely improved with being louder and more outgoing. I’ve gained friends on the team and that’s definitely improved my life. 

RM: I’ve learned to manage my time with schoolwork and learned how to be supportive as well as disciplined, especially as a captain. 


WSS: What is the team’s dynamic like? 

EV: The team is really close, I have a lot of good friends on the team and I’ve made a lot of them from being on the team. 

DJ: The team is made up of lots of different people. You’ll meet lots of new people you might not expect to be on the cheer team, it’s really fun.  

RM: I think we all work well together, we all talk. Everyone talks to everyone and no one is ever left out. 


WSS: What are your goals for the team in the future? 

EV: Definitely to keep the team organized and stay close with one another. 

DJ: I hope the team will be able to be more versatile with dances and band chants. 

RM: I just want us to finish off strong, cheer at all the games I possibly can and make it the best before I graduate. 


WSS: What do you want people to know about the team? 

EV: The team is super fun to be around. We all work really hard, but we like to keep things fun. 

DJ: We actually rehearse and try, even if it’s a little chaotic; I think everyone should try to cheer at some point.

RM: There’s always good vibes, even when we’re stressed out we always find ways to bond and have fun with each other. If you’ve ever considered joining the cheer team, just do it. You’ll make so many memories and we have some of the best coaches. When I graduate, the West High cheer team will always be something I come back to and remember. 

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About the Contributor
Grace Bartlett
Grace Bartlett, Reporter
(She/her) Grace Bartlett is a Junior at West High. This is her first year on staff, and she is a reporter. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys cheerleading, reading, and hanging out with friends!
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