LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — Middle school can be a tough time for kids, with bullying and a lot of insecurities. It’s potentially even harder for children with disabilities.
However, at one Leander middle school, students are going above and beyond make sure one girl knows how happy they are to have her.
During halftime at the Stiles Middle School football game, the school’s cheerleaders put on a performance many never dreamed possible. The girl raised up by her teammates was Presley Ross, a 7th grader with Down syndrome.
“When you saw your daughter — that they said would never be able to do these things — show that she can do these things, it was a very proud parent moment,” said Jeff Ross, Presley’s dad.
Presley first told her parents she wanted to be a cheerleader last year. “Because it’s fun,” she told them.
It was an idea her parents met with apprehension.
“Concerns with people picking on her, making fun,” Teana Ross, Presley’s mom, elaborated. “I was very nervous about it, but gosh she proved us wrong.”
Instead, the team welcomed her with open arms, impressed by her ability and work ethic, not to mention the joy she brings.
“That smile — I mean, you can’t have a bad day when she’s around you,” said Michelle Covington, her cheer coach.
In a show of support, the girls wore ribbons for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Kate Alvord is Presley’s closest friend on the team and says she leaves every practice inspired.
“She just cheers her heart out, like we spirit after and she just kicks and jumps and I mean, it’s amazing,” Alvord said.
Practice is one thing, but to knock it out during a game when all eyes were upon her is quite another.
“She’s going to overcome whatever it takes,” Stiles Middle School Principal Melody Maples said.