By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
In anticipation of the Compete Sports Diversity Summit, our Managing Editor, Dirk Smith, caught up with the president of Cheer Seattle, Jardin Leleux to learn more about Cheer Seattle, their participation in the summit and their contributions to the community through their mission of charitable cheerleading.
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DS: Cheer Seattle is going to be helping Compete out with the Compete Sports Diversity Summit, co-hosted with the Seattle Seahawks. Can you tell me a little bit more about Cheer Seattle’s involvement?
JL: Initially this event was not on our radar whatsoever until we were at the Sin City Classic. One of our board members, Mark had connected with Compete and learned that you all were putting on this conference and had a presence in Seattle. So, we said, “hello! This directly parallel to what we do!” And we decided we needed to get involved with these folks [Compete]. We are just so excited to provide any type of participation, including performances, of course, which is what we do best. We are a performing organization, so that we can raise funds for charity. Throughout the years we’ve also managed to attract and bring folks onto our team who have this incredible Diversity, Equity/Equality, and Inclusion focus on education. They’re involved in advocacy, and they bring this incredible lens to the organization that is so important for us.
We’re an organization that prides itself on diversity within our community, but there are so many kinds of communities that you need to be thoughtful on how to be inclusive. We found that while we weren’t doing it on purpose, we weren’t being inclusive of all those folks. So, having these incredible folks bring that to our attention, and help us get to a place where we feel like we are being much more equitable, has been an incredible experience over the last few years. When we found you guys, we realized there’s a lot we can bring to you and there’s a lot we can learn from you. Cheer Seattle really wants to be more involved with organizations like Compete so that we can continue to build on that learning and continue to bring all these messages to our communities. I will say that one of the best things about cheerleaders is that we are very loud, so we can amplify messages that are important.
DS: What are you looking forward to learning, or helping others to learn about? Not just this event, but events like this in the future?
JL: One of the strongest messages that I personally can give is just my own experience, my own journey, and how I’ve gotten to where I am, in my own learning. I think that every person can connect with someone else’s understanding and someone else’s journey which is a powerful way to manage this type of thing. So that’s one thing that I think I personally can get to Seattle. Cheer Seattle is an organization that can bring this beautiful diversity of folks to show how we can all work together in this organization and we can bring in people who have different perspectives, experiences, journeys, and all of that together which helps make a more holistic process for all of us and a holistic view of how we should be operating which is something that’s so important.
DS: Tell me more about your own story with Cheer Seattle?
JL: I’m from Southern Louisiana and I have been cheerleading basically, my whole life. I’ve also coached cheerleading and done all sorts of different things up until the point where I found Cheer Seattle. By the time I moved out here to Seattle back in 2016, I was just looking for something different to connect with the community I just moved and wanted to find some way to volunteer while also simultaneously needed to scratch my cheerleading itch. I literally Googled, “cheerleading Seattle” and found Cheer Seattle. I went to one of their practices and just could not believe that this group of folks existed; it was exactly what I was looking for. They were so welcoming and everything about it spoke to me. So, I joined right in that moment, and I haven’t looked back since.
It’s been such a great way for me to learn, especially as a cisgender, heterosexual woman, I didn’t have a lot of perspective into the lives of a lot of the folks that I was working with on a day-to-day basis. Even though I had friends throughout my life that could have provided some of that perspective, I just didn’t have the network that gave me interactions with people that were so different from me in a beautiful way. I’ve learned so much from all my co-volunteers, all the other people in the organization and all our beneficiaries. It’s just been such a rewarding experience for me. I think that folks like myself, need to be involved in these types of organizations to really get a full perspective of the world that all these different, beautiful people live in, and the struggles that people have. Especially in how we can help and how we need to adjust ourselves to be better advocates. All of that has been just a very impactful journey for me.
DS: Wow, that is great and a very important lesson for all of us to consider too! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with me, we can’t wait to see you in Seattle!
JL: Thank you so much for setting this up, highlighting Cheer Seattle, and bringing us onboard in such a meaningful way to help with the summit! We are excited to see you there!
Photo Credit: Cheer Seattle