Meet Hannah, an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader with a fondness for science. She’s the latest addition to our team of Science Cheerleaders (NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science careers).
What turned you on to science and when?
Hannah: The dental field really interested me as a kid because my aunt is a Dental Hygienist and she allowed me to job-shadow her a couple of times!
What is your degree in and from where?
Hannah: I’m currently a sophomore at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health Dental Hygiene.
Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Hannah: Anatomy and Nutrition. Anatomy was interesting because I love knowing which parts of the body are responsible for certain functions. Nutrition was equally interesting because proper diet and exercise are obviously important in the professional cheerleading world, and I enjoyed learning about the ways to maintain my health, as well as ways to offer advice and knowledge to my friends and family.
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
Hannah: This is my rookie year as a cheerleader for the Indianapolis Colts. I decided to audition for the squad because I have always enjoyed watching football. My uncle has been a football coach since before I was born, and from an early age I was attending the games and, of course, the cheerleaders always caught my attention. They always seemed so happy and glamorous, and I knew it was something I wanted to do once I was old enough. So, I would be able to combine my love for dance and football in a package deal! I was fortunate enough to make the squad this year, and I plan on re-auditioning next year because it has been an amazing experience thus far.
Which came first? Your interest in science or cheerleading?
Hannah: Cheerleading came into my life before I realized my interest in the science field. However, I always placed a heavy importance on my schoolwork from an early age. I understood that in order to achieve a balanced, full life that I would need to have a good education.
Can you describe a typical day?
Hannah: A typical day where I have both school and cheer is pretty jam-packed! I have about 4 hours’ worth of classes on days when the squad has practice. Our typical practices last between 3 and 4 hours, so at the end of the day I am pretty tired. However, after practice I always have an assignment to complete or an exam to study for, which usually takes another couple of hours. My life may seem busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Best part of your day job or studies?
Hannah: The best part of school for me is having classes with friends. There is actually another cheerleader on our squad who is pursuing the same degree as I am, and we have a class together. It is great to have someone to remind you when assignments are due and to study with for exams.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Hannah: Honestly, the only people who know that I am a professional cheerleader are the people that I personally know, such as my family and friends, or the people from my hometown. On campus, I am just another student. I do not tell others that I am a Colts cheerleader unless they somehow discover the fact for themselves. In the past, I have found that some people assume that cheerleaders are unintelligent, ditsy, and have everything in life handed to them on a silver platter. I do not want other students or professors to think of me this way, so I let my personality and intelligence be the source of their opinions of me.
How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science/engineering?
Hannah: Each and every woman on our squad is intelligent and independent. I would even venture to say that at least half of the squad has or is pursuing a degree in the science or engineering fields. I think that this shows how committed the Colts are to finding well-rounded, intelligent young women to represent the organization.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream (cheerleading, etc.) and following another (a STEM career)?
Hannah: I know that it is hard to push past the opinions of others, but stick to what you are passionate about and you will be happy and successful in life.
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Hannah: I would tell my 12-year-old self to ignore students who may taunt or tease you because they are more than likely just jealous that you are active and can maintain excellence in school. I would also tell myself that boys like smart girls, not girls who cannot think for themselves.
What are your plans for the future?
Hannah:I hope to work in a pediatric dental office. I enjoy working with kids because they are excited and willing to learn how to take care of their teeth, and they are young enough to break any bad oral hygiene habits that they may have developed.
Best cheerleading experience?
Hannah: My best NFL cheerleading experience so far has been every single game day. Each game seems to get better than the last because I become more confident and am able to relax and enjoy the experience a little more.
Best science-related experience?
Hannah: My best science experiences have come from teaching others about something that I have learned in the classroom. I enjoy helping my family and friends to better understand what their bodies may be doing and how they can improve their lifestyles through nutrition and fitness.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Hannah: People may find it surprising that I participated in sports other than cheerleading in high school. Additionally, I played volleyball and ran track and field. The hurdles were my best event!
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Hannah: Technically, it is not too late to change the course of my degree, but I do not wish to do so! Dental Hygiene gives me many options for my future as far as what type of work I will actually be doing, whether I’m in the office or teaching classes later in life, and it will allow me to have a career but still make time for my family in the future.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Hannah: I want to be a Science Cheerleader because I believe it is important to inspire young people to be all that they can be. I also want kids to know that education is extremely important, and that you don’t have to sacrifice fun, extra-curricular activities to be a good student. You CAN have the best of both worlds if you just set your mind to it and work hard!