By C. J. Salgado
Next month, the East L.A. Classic homecoming football game between Garfield and Roosevelt high schools will once again draw tens of thousands of fans. It’s one of the most popular and competitive high school games in the nation. Though most attention is focused on the football players, there is another equally inspiring story to tell off the field in the months and weeks leading up to the big game – and it’s not about the boys.
With over 100 girls in its membership, the Garfield High School drill dance and cheer teams put on a terrific display of teamwork and spirit not only on the field but also when it comes to raising funds, including a car wash benefit held this past Saturday in East Los Angeles. It’s just one more example of the members’ devotion to their team and school. “All these girls practice after school, sometimes until 6 P.M.,” said parent volunteer Lourdes Rojas.
Rojas’ daughter, Apollonia, graduated last year. But Rojas, who is known as “Apple’s Mom,” by the team, continues to devote her time to the Garfield drill and cheer teams. Her devotion to them and support was obvious at the car wash, where she could be seen directing the hectic movement of girls and cars like a seasoned traffic officer. Not to be out done, Rene Flores, a young man seemingly out of place, hollered out commands with confidence as he made sure the dirty cars were washed and the clean cars were dried – and not the other way around. Rene is the “assistant coach,” something he’s been doing for seven years.
This is the teams’ second car wash of the school year. The girls were able to pre-sell five tickets each. Proceeds go toward getting mementos of one sort or another to commemorate the girls’ participation at the big game, to be held on November 4 this year. In previous years, funds raised were used to give the girls specially-made blankets, stuffed bulldogs, drinks, snacks, and other gifts. Because it’s to be a “surprise,” this year’s goodies are as yet unknown but eagerly awaited.
Although there were plenty of smiles during the car wash and an occasional misdirected jet of water to highlight the lighter side of this activity, let’s be clear that these girls are serious about their drill and dance routines and what it takes to be at the top of their game. A current 2.5 grade point average is required to participate, and students must attend all tryout sessions and be committed to attending summer Cheer Camp and practices in July and August.
The result? In 2010, a Garfield team won top honors in pom at the USA Spirit and Dance/Drill Nationals. No doubt, that success will help motivate them for next month’s East L.A. Classic as well as the next dance/drill competition coming to Anaheim in March of 2012.