Local Cheerleader Leads By Example, Inspires Others

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A high school cheerleader with special needs in Texas fighting to stay on the squad is hitting home in St. Albans.

Brittany Davila has Down syndrome. She is an honorary member of the Deer Park High School cheerleading squad near Houston. That means she doesn't go to competitions or participate in stunts. Now, her mom claims the school won't let her cheer because of safety reasons. The school says they are working on new guidelines to keep her on the squad.

Brittany's story is hitting home in St. Albans. A girl very similar to Brittany is cheering on the squad there, with no boundaries.

"Everyone wants to be part of something, and cheerleading is just what she loves," said Tessa Walkup, Kendra's mother.

Kendra Hager is a 16-year-old St. Albans sophomore. She may have Down syndrome, but she's still a big part of the squad.

"I like to go up in the stunt," Kendra says.

She likes stunting and cheering on the sidelines. The recent situation in Texas was heartbreaking for Kendra's mother to hear. "Any child could be hurt on the sideline. So why would they just assume and call her a liability? What was the difference?"

Kendra's mom and teammates agree she isn't any different and she's an equal member of the team.

Freshman Kristin Dailey even says she looks up to Kendra.

"She actually critiques us in our jumps, if they weren't good the first time or out stunts," Kristin said.

It's a lesson of welcoming others with open arms -- one Kendra is now teaching the entire school.

Her lesson for future cheerleaders? "Practice hard."

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