MSW student sees four years of hard work pay off in her quest to become an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader

Commitment. Dedication to improving the lives of others. Perseverance. Three traits that can well serve a student seeking to become a social worker so they can they bring hope and change to peoples' lives.

And it turns out the same traits that helped Melissa in her goal to earn a Master of Social Work degree at the Indiana University School of Social Work, played a key role in her four-year quest to become an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader.

MelissaEver since she was an undergraduate student at Valparaiso University, where she majored in psychology with a minor in social work, Melissa (the Colts ask the last name of their cheerleaders not be published) has had to juggle working and studying. After graduating from Valparaiso, Melissa knew she wanted to go to graduate school and a job making home visits made her realize she wanted to be a social worker. “I just fell in love with it and I knew that’s what I wanted to get my master’s degree in. I knew this is where I should be,” she said of the School of Social Work.

Melissa had been a cheerleader since she was in middle school and joined the cheerleading squad at Valparaiso as a fun, stress-free activity. There, the cheerleading squad was in high demand, cheering on men and women’s sports. Melissa recalled one occasion when the cheerleading squad provided the cheers at five games in a single day at a football game, two basketball games and two volleyball games. Melissa, who has played softball – she played left field, pitcher and short-stop although she prefers being a left-fielder, volleyball, basketball and soccer in high school, liked sports and figured she would have gone to the games even if she wasn’t a cheerleader.

The longer she served as a cheerleader, the more she realized how much she enjoyed it. Today, she even credits being able to juggle her busy schedule to the time management skills she developed while studying, working and being a cheerleader at Valparaiso.

Then about four years ago, Melissa set another challenge for herself – to become a NFL cheerleader. “NFL cheerleading is professional cheerleading and is the highest form you can reach. It’s the Olympics of cheerleading.”

To reach her goal of being an NFL cheerleader, Melissa brought to bear the same determination, focus and commitment that have allowed her to thrive in graduate school. As a graduate student, she worked – sometimes as much as 40 hours a week – as well as taking classes. When her classes and studying were done, she focused on her goal to become an NFL cheerleader and pushed herself to get into the best physical shape of her life. No matter how tired she might feel Melissa was determined to exercise everyday for at least two hours.

Unlike collegiate cheerleading that revolves around gymnastics and tumbling, NFL cheerleading is all about dancing. She added private dance lessons to her aerobic and strength training sessions and lost more than 30 pounds in the process.

Last year she put her work to the test and tried out only to be cut in the final round of the Colts cheerleading competition. While Melissa acknowledged stopping at Dairy Queen that night after the disappoint result, she then stepped up the intensity of her workouts over this last year.

Then last month Melissa returned to the Colts cheerleaders tryouts. This time she was rewarded by hearing her name called, making her one of the 32 Colts cheerleaders for the 2012 season. She has already made two appearances as a Colts cheerleader, the first at the draft party the Colts held at Lucas Oil Stadium and the other at the Mutt Strut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Later this summer, Melissa knows the day will come when she stands on the Colts field and looks at a crowd measured in the tens of thousands not to mention all the people watching on television, rather than by the hundreds of people she has performed before in the past.

Melissa is nearly completed with her MSW degree and hopes to find a job working with children either in an outpatient or residential setting. One favor she might have to ask a future employer is to be off on certain Sunday’s during the coming year.

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
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