LAURINBURG — Scotland High School senior Rebecca Heller discovered her love of competitive cheerleading when she was six.
When she reached middle-school age Rebecca tried out for the Spring Hill cheer squad and was named captain before making the Scotland High School cheer team as a freshman. Over the next four years, Rebecca cheered on the Fighting Scots to countless victories and during her senior year was named a co-captain.
On Friday, Rebecca signed her letter of intent to continue her cheer career at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke as part of the game and competitive cheerleading squads.
Rebecca has been a member of the Glamour Athletics, an all-star cheerleading, gymnastics and dance studio in Scotland County, and credited owner Meagan Carpenter-Dial for why she chose to cheer at UNCP.
“My competitive coach cheered there and all my life I wanted to be like her because she’s such a good role model,” Rebecca said. “My grandpa went to school there and I have a lot of family that live in that area. I want to be around family and what I’m used to.”
The Scotland senior will be a member of the game-day and competitive cheer squads for the Braves.
“Game-day is more you get your pom poms and say some cheers, it’s like high school cheering,” she said. “Competitive is more athletic because you dance, cheer, stunt and tumble during a two and a half minute routine.”
The UNCP cheerleading squad competes in the Cheer Ltd’s CANAM National Competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C. early year and during the 2016-17 competition took second place in their division.
The team also competed in the first Peach Belt Conference Spirit Competition in February in Aiken, S.C. The Braves spirit squad competed in the all-female cheerleading category as part of the PBC men’s and women’s basketball tournament.
Rebecca plans to major in speech and language pathology and audiology with a minor in sign language.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent speech and hearing problems caused by accidents, diseases, and genetic disorders. These professionals can work in a wide range of settings including schools, hospitals and doctors’ officers.
Her goal is to work as an audiologist and teach sign language, but that wasn’t always the career path Rebecca had in mind.
“Ms. (Kelly ) Cheek is one of the reasons I changed my major, I was going to do nursing then I took her class and it completely changed my life,” Rebecca said.
Kelly Cheek teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at Scotland High School.
Despite the demands of cheering for two squads at UNCP and a full course load, Rebecca isn’t nervous about the amount of work that is ahead of her.
“I’m used to having long days, I go to school full time now. Last year, I had a job along with doing competitive and school cheer so I’m used to a full schedule — I don’t like being bored,” she said.
The senior said her family is incredibly excited and proud of her for following her cheerleading dream — and staying close to home.
“As soon as my dad found out I chose UNCP he was so happy that I would be close to home and he could come to all the game, they are over the moon for me,” she said.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]