Cheerleader makes herself heard

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Freshman Meg Gardner stands on the football field before cheerleading practice after school. She is excited for the upcoming season and plans to improve. “Cheerleading was always an inspiration to me and I am glad to continue it,” Gardner said.

After freshman Meg Gardner was diagnosed with Profound Deafness at age two, her interest in cheerleading has been a struggle; however, she pursued her passion for cheerleading in the face of these challenges.

Thanks to Cochlear implants, a medical device that requires surgery, Gardner is able to hear. The doctor must apply a magnet behind the ear in which sound travels to the brain. A removable computer about the size of a quarter attaches to the magnet from the outside.

“I rely on it every day,” Gardner said. “Without the implant, I would not be able to hear, and my life would be way different. I am very thankful that I have it.”

Gardner joined the JV cheerleading team, which now takes up a lot of her time. Practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she prepares each week for the upcoming games.

“[Cheerleading] has always been a part of my life,” Gardner said. “From watching [cheerleaders] dance at National Football League (NFL) games to dancing at a school football game, cheer has always been a natural hobby for me.”

She performs with the other freshmen girls during football and basketball games. They did stunts like building pyramids, kicks and jumps.

“Stunting is hard work and takes skill,” Gardner said. “Personally, I think the jumps are the hardest. It may seem easy at first, but when you do it over and over, it gets challenging.”

With the cheerleader’s friendship, Gardner feels like she has a place at school.

“During cheer and outside of cheer, everyone sees me as a cheerleader–not a cheerleader that is deaf,” Gardner said. “Thanks to the nice people at this school, they make me feel like I fit in, and I never feel left out.”

Gardner’s deafness is insignificant when it comes to cheerleading and, in general, she feels comfortable with herself in the school community. This is partly due to the 18 other students that also have hearing loss.

I think that since there are a number of other students at West that are like me, everyone is used to it,” Gardner said. “It’s great because you don’t get looked at all the time, and it’s way easier to make friends.”

When Gardner lived in Wisconsin, people had no clue of what her Cochlear Implants were, she felt they were judgemental.

People at West are so accepting, and it has impacted me in a positive way,’” Gardner said. “People are very respectful.”