“I had been talking to a friend of mine a while back and explaining to her that I had always wanted to be a cheerleader but I didn’t think I could do it. I guess they talked to the cheer coach and made it happen. When I received that uniform, it made me feel really good. I was finally being able to be included in something like this. It made me feel great that they were thinking of me in that way,” says Cook High senior Misty Triggs, who this season is a member of the Hornets’ cheerleading squad. Triggs, who has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair and has never been able to pursue an activity like cheerleading.
The day before school started, Elizabeth McCumber, a Cook cheerleader, came to Triggs’s home the day before school started. She presented Triggs with the uniform and told her she was on the team. When the shock wore off, Triggs had to get to work. She had never cheered before and had a lot to do. She had practices to attend, cheers to learn, and butterflies to work out. “The first time I came out, I got intimidated. That’s a big crowd out there. But after a while, everything calmed down,” she says.
Triggs’s job on Friday night is the same as any other cheerleader. She is there to encourage the team, entertain the crowd, and make sure the Hornets play their best no matter what the scoreboard says. “I’m in a wheelchair. That’s the only difference between the rest of the team and me. And that’s what has made this even more special – because of my wheelchair, I never thought I would be able to do anything like this,” states Triggs. When she came on the field for the first time, she received an incredible response. “The students were happy for me. Some were probably shocked that I was even down there. I know most of the players and I’m friends with them. They’re very supportive of what the cheerleaders have done for me.”
Triggs is in regular classes at Cook High and interacts with the rest of the student body on a daily basis. She knows everyone and communicates well with her peers. She also has limited use of her arms but that doesn’t get in her way on Friday nights. “My wheelchair is the biggest challenge. I can do a lot of stuff that other kids do. I’m capable of learning just like everyone else,” she says.
For Triggs, being able to cheer is something that extends beyond her and her family. “I definitely feel like I’m representing others with disabilities. I know some people with disabilities feel as if they can’t do what others do. We have limitations and we get told all the time that we can’t do things. In the disabled community, we get put down a lot of the time. It makes it harder for us to prove that we can do certain things. But it also makes us want to prove that we can do these things all the more because we’re being told that we can’t do them. In reality, we can do a lot of things. People are just judging us because of our disabilities,” she says.
After graduation, Misty Triggs plans to attend technical school and study a computer-related field. Her long-term career goals including becoming a writer. Triggs has already started writing a book titled Just Wanting Acceptance. The book is about a young girl with dyslexia who attends private school. Because of her dyslexia, she cannot read or write very well. As a result, she gets picked on and faces tremendous challenges each day. “She’s dealing with a lot of different troubles as she tries to find acceptance from her classmates. My goal is to finish the book and get it published. Who knows where that will lead?” says Triggs.
Cook High School
By Robert Preston Jr.
Photography by Micki K Photography