Now that school is back in session, Angel Gonzalez-Prado will join her teammates for two and a half hours of cheer practice four days a week after school, where she takes part in nearly all of the cheers except the most intensive stunts.
Angel was born with a spinal condition called spina bifida, which left both her legs paralyzed and necessitating the use of a wheelchair.
According to Arnoldo Arreola, Angel’s godfather, the outlook from the doctors was originally very bleak.
“When she was first born, the doctors said ‘don’t expect too much,'” he said, remarking that he was told it was unlikely Angel would live past the age of 10.
In order to improve her condition, Angel has undergone numerous back surgeries, which have led her to be able to expand the range of what she is capable of doing.
“She’s just a fighter, she keeps on going,” he said, emphasizing that Angel is one of the first cheerleaders to perform in a wheelchair.
For Angel, becoming a cheerleader was a dream since early childhood.
Coming into , Angel was urged to try-out for cheerleading by her friend, who was captain of the team.
As a contrast to the stereotype of cheer tryouts as being superficial and contentious, Angel’s mother, Cynthia Prado, described the cheerleaders as immediately embracing Angel.
“Everyone had welcomed Angel with open arms,” she said.
Angel lauds the effort of her fellow cheerleaders to include her in as many activities as possible, including with moves she had trouble with.
Her favorite part of cheerleading is getting others equally enthused.
“Seeing the crowd get involved in the cheers is the proudest moment,” Angel said.
For Prado, the inclusive atmosphere of the other cheerleaders and students at school is a wonderful contrast to earlier days when people with disabilities were not readily accepted.
“When I went to school, kids with disabilities didn’t try out for sports," she said. “I’m glad that kids with disabilities are being welcomed and not bullied.”
Though Angel is only 15 years old, she has college firmly within her sights. She is planning to attend a four-year school and enter a career in pediatrics or nursing.
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