When I feel that first chill in the air, it reminds me of The Girls of Fall. My first involvement with community that had my back and supported me unconditionally. I am talking about the varsity Sweet Home Cheerleaders. My father gave us the Girls of Fall nickname because he knew they would be a flurry of activities and friendships that brought out the best in me every fall. They didn’t let anybody in that club; it took every ounce of heart, sweat, and spare time we had. It took lots of practice, cartwheels, learning complicated routines, and showing up for every practice or game that the Sweet Home Varsity football team played.
To wear those gold blouses and short navy rompers with SH (Sweet Home) embroidered on them was as much a privilege as it was a pleasure. Everyone wanted to be a cheerleader, but they only accepted 10 of us every year. I remember trying out as a freshman, looking at those varsity cheerleaders, and hoping I could be one of them with a little hard work. They were a very tight-knit group and hung out together well beyond practice sessions and games. Every freshman yearns to fit in that first year as we transition into high school. My new high school was huge, and I was that awkward teen with no self-confidence. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and the only team I had ever belonged to was the gymnastics team, a much less popular group, but boy, were they talented.
Being a cheerleader gave you instant notoriety and popularity, but that was not the good part. The sweet part was the way we had each other’s back. I can remember my first homecoming dance. I did not have a date or a dress, but the Girls of Fall made sure one of their boyfriend’s best friends asked me to the dance, and I could borrow a dress from another sister on the team. Going to the fall dance was very intimidating, as most of the people who went to it were part of the cool crowd. I can remember the anxiety I felt walking in with a boy I barely knew and a dress that was not mine. But my angst disappeared once I saw my cheerleading squad. We danced, laughed, and hung out drinking Hawaiian punch.
Looking back, I now realize this was the first all-girl community I belonged to. A feeling of fellowship with others results from sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. When you integrate into a community, you’re allowing yourself to connect with influencers and raise your own profile. One of the most important things about community is that you can get your name known by people who have the power to open doors for you, and ideally, you can return the favor to others.
No matter how talented you may be or how smart you are, it is impossible to know and do everything by yourself. But as a community, we rise up for common good and stand by those individuals. We become stronger and better together. It has been a long time since I thought of being a Girl of Fall. That happened over 45 years ago. Today I am part of the SheCAN! community that helps women step into their power and connect with other women who get them. How cool is that?