The Ultimate All-American

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s senior year and I’ve busy with preparing myself for my future. But here’s something that I want to keep and reflect as I bring my high school years to a close. In the midst of writing college essays, supplements, and scholarship essays, I had the opportunity to address this prompt:

Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership. What did you accomplish? How did this experience influence your goals?

I found it in myself to discuss something that has been near and dear to my heart these past four years and that has affected me tremendously as a person. My mother read over this and could tell the passion that I put into writing this and into my sport. So here is it…

 

As I entered high school, I decided to end my childhood career in dance and to begin a new experience in cheerleading, just as I had always planned as a little girl. Cheerleading came to have much more of an impact on my life than I ever imagined it would. I was surprised and grateful when I was the only freshman to make the Varsity squad after impressing the coaches with my extensive dance background and outgoing spirit. Since attending my first summer cheer camp, I have enjoyed every minute of practice, bruise on my body, and tear down my cheeks that have come from all the hard work and diligence.

Although we do not formally compete, my team attends Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Cheer Camp every summer with over 600 other cheerleaders and around 30 other teams. For four days straight, from sun up to sun down, we extensively learn new dances, cheers, stunts and pyramids; all while preparing for competition at the end of camp. The last day of camp holds the Camp Championship where all teams compete in the dance, cheer, and stunt categories. The MICDS Cheerleading Squad has never failed to place in the top three every year since my freshman year. In addition to Camp Championship, auditions are also held for UCA All-Americans. Coaches are encouraged to nominate members of their team to audition and those nominees perform in front of the judges and other cheerleaders for the opportunity to be named an All-American.

This summer, during my last cheer camp, I was finally nominated to audition. I remember being nervous and shaking as I stood in front of the entire camp by myself anxious to perform. I started with my welcoming smile, opened my mouth and clasped my hands together, ready to start the first cheer and dance. Before I knew it, my audition was over and I just had to wait until the final day of camp to find out the results. During the Championship Award Ceremony, my squad placed 2nd in dance, 3rd in cheer and received the Superior Squad Award, earning us a bid to perform at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, FL. I was thrilled by these accolades; however, I was still nervous to hear about All-American selections. When the time finally came, I sat in a circle with my team, with my hands clenched, as we all held our heads down. They began calling out names and crowning other girls with medals, and as they got further and further down the list, I panicked from fear of not hearing my name called. Then suddenly I heard them call my first name and my heart began to race (because there was another girl who tried out with the same first name as me). When they finally called “Ferguson” I was filled with accomplishment and happiness; I had finally made the All-American team after four years of wishing. I was one of two girls from my team to make it.

As an All-American, I was invited to travel and perform in both the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the London New Year’s Day Parade. I opted to perform in Macy’s so during Thanksgiving Break, I traveled to New York City for a week of intense morning and late night rehearsals, city life, and the greatest experience of a lifetime. I recall waking up at 3 am, the morning of the parade to prepare for lining up and performing in front of hundreds of people on the streets of New York, but also thousands of people watching on national television. It was an experience like no other, to be on the green carpet in front of the notorious 12-floor Macy’s Department Store, dancing with NBC cameras in your face. This was truly an experience I will always remember and cherish because I was able to shine through my love for performing.

Not everyone in the world agrees that cheerleading is a sport, so when I hear comments denying the significance of cheerleading, I am forced to have thick skin and to prove my point. Cheerleading has influenced my goals by reminding me how important it is to always find a reason to perform at my best ability, in anything I try, and to stay focused and train hard in order to accomplish what I want.

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Can one person change the world? Why or why not?

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As I begin my senior year, I’ve decided to take a course my school offers called Global Action Project. In this course we’ll tackle issues throughout the world and eventually create our own social enterprises focusing on one specific topic and pitching them in front of a panel of judges. Our introductory assignment was to complete a video blog answering our opinion on the question “Can one person change the world? Why or why not?”

Success for MICDS Girls’ Basketball 2013

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The MICDS Girls’ Basketball Team was able to have a successful season with an overall record of 24-3. They started their season, travelling to Nashville, Tennessee the weekend of December 14th, winning both games against Harpeth Hall High School by 37 and University High School by 21. MICDS Girls’ came home to continue hard work and victory in the MICDS Holiday Tournament. They were able to take the Championship beating Clayton High School in the first round, Parkway Central in the semi-finals, and Westminster Christian Academy in the finals. This was the beginning of the rivalry against the WCA Wildcats this season.

“We’ve always had a rivalry with them so we’re always really serious about it so whenever we played them we kind of stepped up our game more when preparing to step on the court” said junior center, Josie Cusworth.

Games against the Wildcats were always the ones to look forward to. After the Holiday Tournament, MICDS met up with Westminster again at an away league game. This time it was the Rams’ job to show that the first win wasn’t a fluke. The pressure was on, but the Rams fell short to the Wildcats 58-56. But this didn’t prove the rivalry to be over.

After Westminster defeated Visitation Academy and MICDS won against Villa Duchesne in the District Semi-Finals, the rivals were at it again two days later for the District Championship.

Actually, this game was a replay of the last three years. Both teams have managed to advance to the Class 4 District Championship against each other since MICDS won in 2010. After losing in 2011 and 2012, MICDS was showing no mercy this year.  With 2.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and MICDS down by three, junior Emily Kyman scored and got fouled on giving her an And 1 opportunity. Going to the line, she missed the first, but completed the second free throw, tying the score and sending the game into overtime. The extra period worked in the Rams’ favor as they were able to shut down WCA, winning the game 74-65. This was a proud moment for seniors Cameron Jackson and Natalie Singer bringing their team the 2nd District Championship the school has ever seen.

“It was such a great game, and I’m really proud of the way our team worked together and never stopped playing hard. Also, it couldn’t have been done without all the support we had from the school at the game” explained senior guard, Cameron Jackson.

On March 6, 2013 the MICDS Girls’ Basketball Team ended their season with a loss in the Sectional game against Incarnate Word Academy. Although the team fell to the #17th ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps Sports, they were able to play with determination. After falling short in shots during the first half, MICDS was able to intensify and outscore IWA during the third quarter, but unfortunately, that it was not enough to bring IWA an upset. The ending score was 61-36. Freshman, Rachel Thompson, was the leading team scorer of this game with 11 points, followed by junior, Caroline Millitello and freshman, Taylor Baur, both with 8 points.

“I was very proud of how the girls handled the significant challenges of the season.  While I was always pleased with how they competed every time they stepped on the court, I was most impressed with their unselfishness and commitment to each other.  The basketball season is brutally long and physically grueling, but these nine girls always came to practice eager to work and had a lot of fun with each other in the process,” said Coach Small.

MICDS Girls Basketball ended their season ranked 7th in the state. With the 24-3 record, there are the most wins in school history (2010-2011 had the record they broke which was 22-2).

 

So you want to be an Olympian

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“Even though it’s not like I’m making a ton of money from running, it’s really worth it to go to the Olympic Trials and get to compete. Since it is what I love to do and get to do every day, it’s just kind of cool for me because you do something you love,” said Indiana University alum and former track star Sarah Pease.

To be an Olympian you must have pure talent and skill. Most Olympians train in their sport numerous years before trying to compete in the Olympics, but Pease has a different story. She stands as an example that rather than just having talent, elite athletes must have innate abilities that can be stimulated with training. Pease tried out last year for the 2012 Olympic Trials and came out 10th in the nation in the 3,000-meter women’s steeplechase.

Pease started running track in the seventh grade and planned on being a basketball player until high school. When arriving to Indiana University she started track as a walk-on, but trained herself well enough to become a star her senior year.

Shocking most of her community with what she was capable of, she explained that competition is what motivated her.

“To keep the end goal in mind and knowing that the people you’re competing against are getting up and doing what they need to do then you feel that you have to do what you need to do. You just have to think about the big picture,” said Pease.

Although Pease worked her hardest all the years she competed in track, she was not alone in preparing herself.

“Coach Helmer has been coaching for so long, so his experience and the way he never let you have excuses. And your teammates they go through the same workout every day and they’re with you every day so they know what you go through. They’re your competitors, but they’re also your teammates and your fans,” said Pease.

Pease said being an Olympian is a lifestyle. Raw talent can only get you so far. The time commitment and the lifestyle is what people most struggle with.

“You have to make sure you do all of the little things you’re supposed to do, like getting enough sleep.” Said Pease, “after an hour run I may not want to stretch or get in the ice bath, but that’s just things you have to do.”

Former IU Track and Field and Cross-Country Coach and USA Track and Field Hall of Famer Sam Bell explains commitment from a coaches perspective, “If you do what you should do as a coach you let your kids teach you because they’ll teach you more than you ever knew. What their limits are, what they can or can’t do, teaches us about commitment.”

As an elite athlete you have to know what you are physically capable of and build on that to make you stronger. Bell coached at Indiana from 1970 to 1988 and won a total of 27 men’s and women’s Big Ten titles. Individually, he coached 90 All-Americans, including 7 Olympians along with being the U.S. Olympic team assistant coach in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.

Bell believes that one defining characteristic separates the regular athlete from the Olympic athlete.

“Self-confidence. And they are able to look at other people, see what they are doing, and steal it to use to their own advantage.”

Pageants in America: Beneficial Rather than Degrading

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Swimsuits, fake personalities, and caked-on-makeup are the first things to come to mind when hearing the word “pageant”. Many people in our society believe pageants sexualize the female gender and hypnotize us to believe that beauty is more important than character. Ever since the 1996 murder of 6-year-old pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey, controversy has surrounded the pageant world. The media has only reported the negative opinion of pageantry through common television shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras. Toddlers and Tiaras displays little girls being made into what is perceived as “beautiful” to competitively destroy other girls in a contest of who has the most beauty. Little girls wear outfits that don’t depict their age or the average young girl.

This show puts out a bad image for the Pageant industry instead of boosting its mission. The well-known Miss America Organization (and largest scholarship program for females today) has the mission of empowering young women to achieve their personal and professional goals, while providing a medium in which to express their opinions, talent and intelligence. I have experienced first-hand the benefits of pageants.

As I participated in the National American Miss pageant, I found it to be completely different from those highlighted on Toddlers and Tiaras. My family and I immediately saw a change in my personality after pageant weekend. My confidence was at its highest peak it had ever been through my comfort in speaking in public and my strength of stating my opinions. That weekend was one of the first times were I felt people were able to meet the person I had always been too shy to show.

Pageants are designed to help girls develop a sense of determination as they have a goal that they continuously work for. Not only are pageants intended to teach determination, but also to spark passion within its contestants. Through talent portions girls discover their hidden abilities and are encouraged to share them with the world. Pageants instill in its participants, the importance of community involvement and being a leader through the platform requirement program solving an issue that holds our country back from the greatest success. Current Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, has the platform of mentoring children of incarcerated parents through her organization Circles of Support. Former Miss Americas have contributed to issues such as eating disorders, AIDs, and online safety. Our nation’s pageant queens and contestants grow up to be our future lawyers, CEOs, journalists, and entrepreneurs.

I’ll leave you with this thought from individualist feminist and writer, Wendy McElroy on the opinion that pageants are just objectification of women, “Being judged on the basis of your beauty is no more “objectification” than taking a college exam and being judged on your intellect; yet every student takes exams.”

Shabbat Shalom from a Baptist

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I am Jazmyn Ferguson, an African American Baptist that loves going to synagogue. I am also a member of the Cultural Leadership Class 8. Cultural Leadership is a yearlong program that teaches high school students about social justice through the African-American and Jewish lens. The program trains us to become “trouble makers of the best kind”, by solving issues of discrimination and inequality. Through this experience, we meet many different people within our class and through our speakers.  Cultural Leadership has taught me to branch out of my comfort zone.

Since January, Cultural Leadership has helped me to develop great respect and passion for Judaism and its culture. As a 7th grader, I attended many bar and bat mitzvahs of my classmates. I didn’t really attend much of the services, but I was definitely at the parties. I remember the excitement of the celebrations and the love and attention that was given to the bat/bar mitzvah. Watching them being boosted into the air on what seemed like a royal throne by their family members always attracted me. That image comes into my mind every time I attend Shabbat services with Cultural Leadership. I sing, I dance, and I learn through the word of God no matter what language is being spoken. It’s like being in church, just with a different crowd. Through Cultural Leadership I have learned that Judaism is more than a religion, but a way of life. I have learned about the lifestyle of Judaism and how it goes beyond just a celebration or a party. Starting at birth, the Jewish lifecycle continues with many events marking the crossing of thresholds in life. Behind every segment of these events is a reason and explanation of why things are the way they are. From a bride and groom joining under the chuppah representing their home, to the 7 day grieving of Shiva to honor the life of the deceased, everything in the Jewish culture has a reason.

In Cultural Leadership, one of the first things we focused on was oppression. I hadn’t really known what oppression was and had not gone into deep research on it. We defined oppression as “systemic mistreatment of a defined group of people with that mistreatment reinforced and support by society.” While I did know that oppression was the demoting of a group of people, I never put into consideration societies part in it. Through the Cycle of Oppression/Socialization, society starts it at the young ages. The early years are affected by misinformation, missing and biased history, and stereotypes. These factors become installed in people and then are reinforced by the media, government, economics, class, and houses of worship. Once this is reinforced, it becomes internalized and then the misinformation is believed to be the truth and people begin to hold assumptions and stereotypes. When we begin to internalize these untruths we are now internalizing oppression within ourselves.

In our March meeting, I learned about Judaism in relation to anti-Semitism from Dr. David Oughton. Christian anti-Judaism served as the basis of anti-Semitism that the Nazis came to follow at a more extreme level. Christians wanted to convert Jews while Nazis wanted to eliminate them. There is the belief that if Christians would have created a sense of acceptance of Jews, then the Holocaust would have never happened. Cultural Leadership has instilled in me that we have to be willing to overcome being uncomfortable in order to make the world a better place. When you take the time to learn and understand those who are different, you really begin to appreciate their story. This has been my experience through Cultural Leadership. I have found it important for myself to encourage others and to step out of my comfort zone and to build a relationship of understanding and respect. After all, how can we fix broken communities and come closer together without starting somewhere?

The Difference between Men’s and Women’s Injuries

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Athletics are an important part of popular culture in the 21stCentury. Many students start playing sports at young ages and  constantly train to improve their skill; the more they train, the more likely they are to experience injuries like sprains or tears. Recently, the question has been raised as to whether specific injuries and their severity are influenced by gender.

Athletic trainer Wendy Poppy discusses the differences between men and women’s sports and injuries.

 At the Indiana University Girls’ Soccer Camp, Indiana University Athletic Trainer Wendy Poppy discussed the comparison of injuries within men’s and women’s sports. She explained that men are more likely to have injuries in sports due to the fact that there are more elite male athletes.  In numerous studies, it has been shown that males have a higher risk for injury than females on average, but in certain sports injuries may be more frequent in women than men.

“Women in soccer and basketball have a higher rate of ACL injuries with 4-6 times greater risk in basketball and a 3-4 times greater in soccer,” said Poppy.

Injuries in men and women may differ because of muscle structure. Earlier this year, researchers from Oregon State University reported that men and women’s nervous systems  are controlled differently, which can cause injury occurrences to differ between sexes. Men are more likely to control their nerves like a sprinter, in short bursts, while women control their nerves in with endurance.

OSU School of Biological and Population Health Sciences clinical assistant professor Sam Johnson said, “We found differences in nervous systems that we believe are linked to this topic, although the causes of these differences we’re unsure of.”

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A group of girls practice juggling the soccer ball.

Men and women differ in the likeliness of specific injuries. A 2009 study done by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that women are more likely to have injuries to the hip, lower leg, and shoulder. Men are more likely to have injuries to the thigh than women, while  knee-injuries are less common.

Sports-related injuries between men and women differ because of the physical makeup of the body. Many different injuries range between men and women due to the way they train their bodies. It is more common for men to train their body with power more than with endurance, as women are more known for in sports.