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Never Fear, She’ll Bring the Cheer: Inspiration to Others, Stevens’ Berry Out to Inspire Donation to School

Emily Berry, a junior at Stevens High School at the Stevens High School gym in Claremont, N.H., on April 3, 2014. 
Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Emily Berry, a junior at Stevens High School at the Stevens High School gym in Claremont, N.H., on April 3, 2014. Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

Claremont — Like a lot of girls at Stevens High School, Emily Berry has a date for the junior prom and can’t wait for the grand occasion.

Emily’s mom, Shelly, is sharing in the excitement. The two have already picked out a gown for the night.

“She’s going to look so beautiful,” said her mother.

Emily is also a top student at the school with a 3.2 grade-point average, and she recently attended the school’s National Honor Society banquet.

But for all her extracurricular activities, Emily’s passion remains consistent: Cheerleading.

“I really, really love cheerleading,” the 17-year-old junior said.

Cheerleaders have always been stereotyped — the dainty, slender girls who dance, tumble, form pyramids and perform routines that accentuate their figures. Regardless of the stereotype, Berry has been cheering for many years. When Emily takes the floor for a cheerleading routine at a basketball game, she is just as skilled as her teammates, just with a different appearance.

“I blame my parents,” she said laughingly, referring to her size compared to the other cheerleaders. “I’m confident in my own skin. Whatever it is I am, I am what I am because of my parents.”

“Yeah,” said Shelly, laughing, “It’s our fault.”

Apparently, someone noticed how Emily conducted herself while cheerleading, and nominated her for a competition sponsored by USA Today for a high school contest called “The Inspiration.” It is a contest for high school athletes that are an inspiration to others.

“I don’t know who nominated her,” said her mother. “We just got an email from USA Today to tell of her acceptance.”

“It made me feel real good that someone had that kind of impression about me,” said Emily.

This season, Berry was a member of the Stevens team that advanced to the second round of the recently completed Division III state tournament.

The competition comes with $1,000 donation to the school’s athletic department.

This is similar to last fall’s USA Today-sponsored contest where Hartford High won the national prize as the school with the most supportive fans. Basically, it was an Internet voting party, promoting ballot-stuffing to support your favorite school — or in this case, most inspirational athlete.

Emily has already made it though two rounds and is just one of 35 left in the competition that began with 100 competitors. The winner is determined purely by the number of votes. Voting is done by going to http://contest.usatodayhss.com/inspiration/round-1 then hitting the "Personal Courage" tab. Emily’s biography can be found under the “Personal Courage” group.

“Having Emily included is no real shocker,” said Stevens athletic director Aaron House. “Not only is Emily’s story inspirational, but she as an individual is inspiring. Emily is a dedicated member of our athletic department, fully committed to our climate and culture here at Stevens.

“If anyone in Cardinal country is ever having a rough day, one of Emily’s smiles is all it takes to brighten the atmosphere.”

Emily received more than 7,000 votes in the last round, but her mother is concerned that because some of the other contestants are from large communities, it will be hard for Emily to get enough votes.

“We need people to get on that website and vote,” said Shelly.

Emily’s biography, which is on the website, describes her this way: “Her teammates often reach out to her for help when learning new routines and words of wisdom. Her smile glistens and warms the hearts of those around her. She walks with pride and holds her head up high, proud of who she is and who she represents, with pure determination, yet humble. She never bats an eye at what people think of her because all she is thinking about is her team, her school and her coaches.

“She still wants to be a regular kid, going for pizza and McDonald’s occasionally, but is still always thinking about her cheer uniform and (how) she will look in it, struggling with body image each and every day.”

Emily is hoping for a future in physical therapy but, for now and the next school year, she will be doing all the cheering she can — for herself, her team and her school.

“Cheerleading is her passion,” said her mother.

Voting for the contest ends April 8.