After maintaining a rigorous schedule for so long, she finally decided to listen to her tired, hurting body and close her career. However, that didn’t mean that Lexi was quitting sports altogether. She decided to try something new by auditioning for the Heritage High School cheerleading team. Her skills from gymnastics paid off as Lexi made the varsity team her freshman year. While the stereotype of a cheerleader is someone who is popular and well-received, Lexi had the opposite experience. “I don’t really fit into the cheer style,” said Lexi. “I’m not the popular cheerleader that everyone envisions. I don’t have a huge group of friends, but I do enjoy talking to everyone.” Despite being part of the “in crowd,” Lexi began being bullied instead of accepted. “My freshman year I suffered a severe concussion right before October break, and we had a competition that week,” Lexi said. “I wasn’t able to go. Everyone was asking why I wasn’t there, but it wasn’t because they were worried if I was OK. It was because they were mad that I missed the competition.” When she was finally able to return to practice, Lexi wasn’t welcomed with open arms. Instead she received rude, harsh words about her lack of commitment to the team.
In her sophomore year Lexi incurred another, less severe concussion. Once again, she wasn’t able to attend practices because of the sensitivity to light and sound, and she again had to face negative backlash from teammates for missing her obligations. However, in her junior year, Lexi took matters into her own hands and began to turn her experience around. “Thankfully in my junior year I took Teens Lifting Lives and adopted the mentality that sometimes you just have to be nicer than the bully, and hopefully they’ll start to be nice in return,” said Lexi. Now as a senior varsity cheerleader, Lexi is a positive leader to the underclassmen who make up more than half of the squad. “I just make sure that I’m there for any of those girls. If someone’s not being nice to you, please let me know because I will stop it.”
Lexi attributes her new positive attitude to her experience in Teens Lifting Lives. Each mini semester includes 30 new students from Antioch, Brentwood, and Oakley, many of whom did not know each other prior to joining. “I got to meet a lot of people who I never would have known otherwise, including another girl who had also been bullied. So, we worked together to conquer it,” said Lexi. Part of the eight to 10-week program is reading You’re a Badass and The 5 Second Rule. “I read each book two or three times because sometimes I need a refresher to remind myself that I can do whatever I want to do in this world.” The 5 Second Rule definitely came in handy for Lexi when she was trying out for the United Cheer Association’s Varsity All American London Tour. In the book readers learn the idea that when they’re feeling anxious, nervous, or unsure about doing something, to count down from five and when they reach one, just jump right in. Lexi already had the mindset that she was not talented enough to earn the offer to join the team, so when it came time for her turn to try out, she started having second thoughts. “I was waiting for my turn in line, and I started getting fidgety and doubting if I could do it,” Lexi said. “The 5 Second Rule came to mind, and right when I got to one, they called my group. So, I went for it, and I made it!” Thanks to her determination, Lexi was able to travel to London to cheer and dance in a New Year’s Day parade.
Another aspect of Teens Lifting Lives is learning to pay it forward, which fits right in with Lexi’s heart for volunteering. She already serves at The Fellowship Church in Antioch with her family, putting together crab feeds, working Christmas tree lots, passing out water bottles to cars stopped at stoplights, feeding the homeless, doing slavery walks, and taking missions trips to Nicaragua. When it came time to pay it forward, which was required to do two to three times per week while participating, Lexi found creative ways to help those in her community. “My favorite pay it forward was when I was in the dollar store picking out candy to take to the movies with my brothers,” said Lexi. She was talking with the girl behind her in line and asked about her shopping cart full of canned goods. The girl explained that during the summer her postman picks up cans that are left in mailboxes to donate to feed the homeless, so she leaves about 10 cans in her mailbox per week. “I thought that was such a cool idea. So, I paid for her entire cart because I thought that since she was giving back to the community, I wanted to help in my own way.”
When Lexi isn’t cheering or volunteering, she is working diligently to maintain her spot on the honor roll, as well as taking night classes at Los Medanos College to learn sign language. Her dedication has paid off. “I was just accepted into Grand Canyon University, a private college in Arizona,” said Lexi. “I automatically committed to attending. This is a huge deal for me. I have dyslexia, and most of the time, if you’re in an IEP class, it’s pretty rare to have the opportunity to go to college because of how low your scores are.” Lexi hopes to study something in the social sciences to continue on to helping kids who are struggling.