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Bronx Cheerleaders Head to Nationals After Successful Fundraising Campaign

By Eddie Small | January 9, 2017 7:41am
 Cheer captains Malay'Ja Heard and Tamia Rice (L-R) will be heading to Orlando with their team next month to compete at the National High School Cheerleading Championship.
Cheer captains Malay'Ja Heard and Tamia Rice (L-R) will be heading to Orlando with their team next month to compete at the National High School Cheerleading Championship.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUNDVIEW — A team of Bronx cheerleaders will head to the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando next month following a successful fundraising campaign.

The James Monroe Eagles, made up of students from the schools at the James Monroe Educational Campus on Boynton Avenue in Soundview, qualified to compete at nationals following a Dec. 10 regional competition on Long Island and started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for their trip.

The page had raised just over $33,000 as of Monday, and the team also received a $6,000 donation on Friday from City Councilman Andy King, City Councilwoman Annabel Palma and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, putting the Eagles above their fundraising goal and clearing the way for them to go to Florida for the cheerleading competition, which takes place on Feb. 11 and 12.

"Our cheerleaders are going to be able to go to nationals, and we're very excited," said Emarilix Lopez, principal of the campus' Metropolitan Soundview High School. "Within 24 hours, we were able to rally over $20,000 through our GoFundMe account, and with the additional contributions that we will be receiving from our local politicians, we will be able to complete our goal."

Palma, who said she used to attend James Monroe, was very proud of the cheerleading squad and encouraged them to show the rest of the country how great New York is at the competition.

"The Eagles cheerleaders make us really proud to not only be representing our district but be representing New York," she said.

This is the first year that the team has qualified for nationals, and Lopez said they would be the first team from a public school in The Bronx to compete at the championship.

"I think having this experience for them will be life changing," said Sonja Williams, one of the team's coaches, adding that some students have never left the city before.

The fundraiser is meant to help cover the costs of transportation, lodging, food and supplies, and the cost works out to roughly $1,100 per student, an amount of money that Williams said is out of reach for many James Monroe families.

Malay'Ja Heard, the senior captain on the team, said she was overwhelmed by the support the Eagles had received in their effort to go to nationals, as she was not always confident that the team would be able to raise the necessary funds.

"I lost a little bit of hope when I saw that we weren't receiving enough money to go," she said, "and it brought tears to my eyes because I know this means a lot to myself and my teammates. So just to know that we have you guys here to support us, words can’t even explain how I feel about it."