Girl with Down syndrome making junior high cheerleading squad

Published: Monday, June 3 2013 12:10 a.m. MDT

Lily Smith, a 14-year-old with Down syndrome, tried out for Eisenhower Junior High School's cheerleadering team and made the squad. She showed off her skills during a goodbye assembly Thursday, May 30, 2013.

Eric Betts, Deseret News, Eric Betts, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Summer break is just around the corner, but Lily Smith can't wait for the next school year to start.

Lily will be in the ninth grade next year at Eisenhower Junior High, and she's going to be on the cheerleading squad for the first time.

Lily is a typical teenage girl who loves to dance and sing to music from Justin Bieber and One Direction. The only difference is she has Down syndrome.

Her mother, Suzie Smith, said Lily really wanted to try out for the squad.

"She wanted to do it, and I didn't see why not to let her try," Suzie Smith said. "We told her, 'You know, you might not make it,' and she kept saying, 'I might not, but I might.' "

Lily's mother found a former Eisenhower cheerleader to help her prepare for tryouts. They worked on routines and cheers for several weeks. Sixteen girls tried out for the team, and 10 girls made it.

"We had rubric and criteria set up for the scoring, and based on those criteria, Lily will be a cheerleader at Eisenhower Junior High School next year," Principal Mary Rhodes said.

During her school's goodbye assembly, the 14-year-old showed her classmates she could stay in unison with the other girls.

"I like being on stage, and I love dancing around," Lily said.

Her friends on the squad said they love the energy and excitement Lily brings.

"Lily is always happy, and she always comes every morning and gives us all huge hugs," said Camry Pule, the team's captain.

Suzie Smith emphasized that her daughter doesn't suffer from Down syndrome.

"In society, we talk about the individual who suffers from something. Lily doesn't suffer from Down syndrome. She just happens to have Down syndrome," she said. "She has proven she can do whatever she wants to try. At least she's going to be able to try. If she makes it, great. If she doesn't, that's OK too because she tried."

Suzie Smith said she has seen her daughter do a lot of things that make her very proud. Lily has been in two movies, in public service announcements and in a few educational videos.

"It's rewarding to me to see her do some of the things that she wants to do," she said.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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