RHS cheerleader attends CheerHawaii
Rugby High School’s cheer team will fire up the Panther crowd this season with some new routines, thanks to team member Lauren Voeller and valuable lessons she learned in Hawaii this summer.
Voeller attended CheerHawaii USA, an educational camp that includes more than opportunities to fine-tune dances and catch airborne teammates.
“They taught a lot of leadership, and how to lead your team better; a lot of different skills, and how to go about problem solving in your team like better ways and just keeping a positive attitude at all times,” Voeller told the Tribune.
CheerHawaii USA’s website describes the camp program, which lasts approximately one week: “CheerHawaii focuses on 3 main areas: building cheer skills and preparing for the college level, growth in leadership, and experiencing the Hawaiian culture. We have a unique way of combining workout sessions with the experience of some of Hawaii’s best beaches and activities.”
The program is held on the University of Hawaii campus on the island of Oahu.
Voeller was nominated to attend the program by RHS Cheer Coach Ashley Stricker.
“The crazy thing about me getting nominated was I was the youngest one to ever get in,” noted Voeller, who will begin her junior year next week.
“I’m like the first sophomore ever to get nominated in that fast.”
Voeller said of her experience, “I loved it (Hawaii). It was so beautiful. It was so fun at camp there. We got to learn about Polynesian culture and all that stuff while we were learning how to lead a team.”
“There were teams from all over the United States,” Voeller added. “I represented North Dakota as a cheerleader. There were four of us: A girl from Langdon, April Kratcha, and two from Mayport Sylvia Straight and Zoe Agnes.”
Voeller said she learned plenty of things to take to her team back home in Rugby: “A lot of cheers, and a lot of different team bonding things that we did there, because when you get there, you don’t know anyone,” she noted.
Voeller described her team in Hawaii as “all scattered around the state, so you have to do a lot of team bonding, because cheer’s a lot of trust because of catching people, and for stunting, you need a lot of team bonding, so that was really cool.”
“I learned some different games to play to help team bonding, and a lot of different skills too, to take back home,” she added.
The camp provides lessons on preparing for the responsibilities of college life, emphasizing financial literacy.
The camp was founded by the Alan Akina family. Alan Akina is the chief executive officer of 101 Financial, a Hawaiian money management firm.
“He does financial advising all over the world,” Stricker said of Akina.
“He actually sits down and talks to the girls about their finances, and about saving money, and college, and their upcoming expenses, and what it means to spend smart,” Stricker noted.
Stricker said the financial lessons taught at the camp are just some of the things that appeal to her.
“The thing that I love so much about CheerHawaii is yes, the girls get the experience of cheerleading; they get the experience of working with Penn State cheerleaders, which is really great; and working with the University of Hawaii and the University of South Florida,” Stricker said. “So, they get that experience, but they also get the opportunity to go there (and meet people from all over the United States).”
“I think sometimes in Rugby, people fall into a rut because they’re comfortable here,” Stricker added. “(At CheerHawaii USA), the girls get to really push themselves and really get out of their comfort zones and discover who they are.”
Stricker noted another benefit of the camp: “They go to the Hawaiian Cultural Center; they go to Pearl Harbor; they get engulfed in that Polynesian culture, which I think is really great.”
Although Voeller was the only cheerleader Stricker nominated for the program this year, Stricker said she has nominated groups of as many as four RHS candidates in the past. Most of her nominees have been accepted to the camp.
Stricker said criteria for acceptance include leadership potential and a desire to take on the “responsibility of being a leader.”
“So,” Stricker added, “They’re ready for that responsibility and they don’t just blow off the leadership part, because they spend so much time and effort on the leadership training in CheerHawaii.”
“Before, they were seeing girls there who were only there to stunt, or only there to cheer instead of going there to (take in the whole experience).”
Stricker herself has attended CheerHawaii USA as a coach. Of the four years she’s nominated students, she coached there in 2016 and 2018. This year and two years ago, she said she was busy with hockey activities for her son, Shanks.
Stricker described the camp as “spendy.”
“And on top of (camp costs), they have to pay airfare.”
Some participants organize their own fundraisers to pay for the cost of the camp.
Voeller said to raise money, “I did two mini cheer camps, one in Rugby, and one in Towner.” Voeller also sold Valentine’s Day cupcakes.
Stricker said she hopes to nominate seven cheer team members for next year’s camp.
To pay for their trip, Stricker said, “A lot of the girls have decided to get jobs this summer and they have to really save, which I love, because that teaches financial literacy and smart saving and really working hard for what they want.”
Voeller said she hopes to attend the camp next year, too.
“You have to push yourself,” Voeller said of her experience with CheerHawaii USA. “They’ll push you, but if you want to really get the full experience of camp, you have to push yourself, and that’s super cool, because now back home, I’m pushing myself and I can tell that camp has really changed me a lot.”
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