Published Online: January 29, 2003
Published in Print: January 29, 2003, as Take Note

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Helping Hand

Last fall, the cheerleaders at Denver's Lake Middle School earned a coveted spot in the National High School Cheerleading Competition at Walt Disney World. But the $18,000 price tag to attend the event proved too high for the girls.

So they're doing the next best thing. The students have raised almost $4,000 to help another Denver school, 1,600-student John F. Kennedy High School, go to the national competition next month.

"I was floored. We were figuring out all the fund-raising we had to do, and here was this little angel saying, 'We'll help you,' " said Kennedy High's cheerleading coach, Cindy Hsu. Her students had to raise $22,000 in one month to attend the event.

"If that money was not there, we wouldn't have been able to do it," Ms. Hsu said of the contributions from Lake Middle School.

Gina Pacheco, Lake's cheerleading coach, said her students were disappointed that they couldn't afford to go. More than 90 percent of the 913 students at Lake Middle School qualify to receive free or reduced-price lunches.

But they wanted to help a sister school attend. "It was a team effort," Ms. Pacheco said. "They were really happy to send another [Denver] school out there."

Kennedy High received about $3,000 in checks from Lake teachers, parents, and community members, Ms. Hsu said. The Lake students also raised almost $1,000 in one night through the help of Lake teacher Tiffany Bell.

Ms. Bell, a 6th grade teacher with a parallel life as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos football team, rounded up 19 of her teammates and performed at half-time at a Kennedy girls' varsity basketball game this month. Then, the cheerleaders signed Broncos calendars and posters, which were then sold to raise money.

Ms. Bell said she helped because she was touched by the Lake squad's selflessness.

"These are girls who have nothing other than their beautiful faces and positive outlook," she said. "These young women have obviously taught everyone a lesson."

Two people who appear to have heard their lesson are state Reps. Michael Merrifield and Jerry K. Frangas. The two lawmakers were so impressed that they invited the Lake Middle School cheerleading squad to the state Capitol, where they received personal congratulations on their work from the legislature, Ms. Pacheco said.

—Rhea R. Borja

Vol. 22, Issue 20, Page 3

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