School spirit at Northern Secondary School is getting a big boost.
Thanks to former Toronto Argonauts cheerleader Brigitte Grenier, teacher Jessica Fernandes and principal Roni Felsen, the school has been transformed into a supportive environment for athletes, no matter what sport, and that has led to Northern’s new cheerleading squad.
Grenier was brought in by Fernandes to get the girls active through her Cheer Body program. After a few classes, Grenier’s exercise routine had the girls motivated to start their own pep squad.
It started with a five-week “Cheer Fitness” class where the girls could sign up after school and do fitness, Grenier explained, while taking in a February basketball game at the school.
“After a couple of weeks, the girls were like, ‘We want to start a cheerleading team. Why can’t we have a cheerleading team?’” she said. “That’s when we said, ‘Okay, let’s do it’.”
Fernandes went on maternity leave, but right there to pick up the tempo was teacher Benedicte Wiggett.
“I’ve loved it,” Wiggett said, admitting she is “not in the slightest bit” athletic or sporty, and that her vision of cheerleaders needed to be adjusted from “the nastiness portrayed in Hollywood.”
“I’ve been thrilled by the girls’ sense of comaraderie and leadership and being strong women, being there for each other,” she said. “It’s been a large learning curve for them in all sense of choreography, organization and leadership.”
The Northern Red Knights cheer squad is comprised of 24 students from all grade levels and backgrounds.
Three of them were eager to share their experience of how Grenier inspired them.
Sarah Bahreini, who is in Grade 12, and Grade 10 students Emma Peters and Daniella Katsetos all agreed that it gives the school all the more enthusiasm.
“It has definitely helped me be more enthusiastic, come to school, get better grades so I can stay on the team,” Katsetos said. “Everyone’s more into it.”
Grenier says she couldn’t be happier with what has transpired. After being an Argos cheerleader from 2006 to 2012, with four of those years spent as the squad’s captain, she’s able to continue her work in the community.
“I want to help the girls feel confident about themselves,” she said. “I want to get them in better shape and I want to educate them on being a good role model.”
Peters said the team places emphasis on athleticism, so dress code is enforced.
But most importantly, the cheer team has had a positive effect on the entire student body.
“Students are much more supportive of each other, regardless of the sport they’re in,” Wiggett said. “We’re a huge school, and we’re very wrapped up in what we do, and to take time out to do that is very indicative of the school.”
Bahreini agreed, but added school spirit should always be flowing.
“I think that our school should always have a cheer team,” Bahreini said. “It gives the players confidence.”