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San Marcos’ Diverse Cheer Squad a Winning Combination of Students

Abilities, disabilities no matter for Royal Gems Team created by student Layla Landeros

Layla Landeros, left, and the San Marcos Royal Gems Cheer Team.
Layla Landeros, left, and the San Marcos Royal Gems Cheer Team. (San Marcos High School)

The San Marcos Royal Gems Cheer Team made its debut at a varsity girls basketball game in front of a capacity crowd at San Marcos High School last week.

This new team, started and led by Layla Landeros, AAPLE Academy student and San Marcos varsity cheerleader, consists of students with and without disabilities.

The Royal Gems team practices together twice a week and will cheer for the first quarter of four more home basketball games this year. Landeros will continue leading the team next year at various home football and basketball games.

“Layla has set an example for us all and her leadership exemplifies what the AAPLE Academy is all about. I am so proud of her,” said Erik Nielsen, director AAPLE Academy (Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment).

The student-run team started with the support of The Sparkle Effect, a nonprofit organization that helps students nationwide create cheer and dance teams that bring together students with and without disabilities. This year, Landeros piloted the team at SMHS and plans to make it an official Sparkle Effect team this summer.

“The students love coming to practice and have really bonded with their buddies on Varsity Cheer," Landeros said. "They add so much to the team. All of the students are respected and included, regardless of ability. It’s a good thing for the cheerleaders, a good thing for San Marcos, and a good thing for our community.”

“It’s great to have another inclusive opportunity at San Marcos High School. I know the students get a lot out of it. This is a really powerful experience for all involved,” said San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens.

Cindy Lyon, the team advisor and case manager for two of the team members said: “Jen's family (name changed for privacy) came en masse — everyone supporting their sister, daughter and granddaughter. It means so much because the family has been really struggling with Jen's behavior and now, at last, something positive to celebrate with her.

"Last night was truly priceless for them. They took many photos of their smiling cheerleader; a much needed positive experience.”

Readers can support the Royal Gems by making a donation to San Marcos High School — Royal Gems, or coming out to a game and cheering for them. Donations will be used to buy uniforms, bows and other items to help the team.

—Aaron Solis for San Marcos High School.


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