The old days of simple dance-type cheerleading routines are long gone. Todays cheerleaders are required to project their voices as well as be good gymnasts and dancers. Moreover, cheerleading is no longer simply for middle school and high school girls. Cheerleading competitions are held for girls as young as four, and cheerleading teams consist of girls who are not necessarily from the same school. One of the newest but most formidable competitors on the cheerleading scene is Alexandrias own Hot Topic All Stars Cheerleading Program. Despite financial challenges and having to practice in tight spaces with little room to rehearse tumbling and stunts, the Hot Topic All Stars team is winning competitions.
Since 2006, the Hot Topic All Stars have grown from being an idea hatched by three former cheerleaders, Brenda Holloway, Iyona Hawkins, and Shenika Farmer, who work in the recreation department for the City of Alexandria. They saw terrific girls with talent, who were interested in cheerleading, and Holloway, Hawkins and Farmer wanted to create affordable options for those girls to pursue their cheerleading dreams. I was a gymnast and a cheerleader in high school and at Norfolk State University. It was an extremely positive experience for me and I wanted to help other girls have the same sort of experience too, explains Holloway.
The girls in Hot Topic All Stars hail from all over Alexandria. Some try out for the Hot Topic All Star teams because they have always thought cheerleading was neat. Other girls want to be on the team because they like to dance or enjoy gymnastics or their friends want to cheer. Parents are attracted to the program because the Hot Topic All Stars are building a reputation for being a positive, upbeat and good influence on girls.
All of the girls who make the various Hot Topic All Star teams must maintain a grade point average of 2.5 to participate. Holloway, Hawkins, Farmer and the other coaches try to impress upon the girls that doing well in school will increase their opportunities after they graduate from high school. We would love for all of our Hot Topic All Star girls to go on to college, said Holloway. Keeping up their grades, volunteering, coming to practice regularly and learning the routines are all part of a discipline that will help them throughout their lives.
Besides giving their best effort when they attend practice twice a week and working hard in school, the Hot Topic All Star cheerleaders are expected to give back to Alexandria. They volunteer in a variety of endeavors which can include performing at various places around the city. In the past two years, the Hot Topic All Stars cheered on the racers at the Kelley Cares 5K, and they volunteer every year at the George Washington Middle School One Love Festival and the annual Alexandria Firefighters Christmas Toy Drive.
The short-term goals of Hot Topic are to get the teams ready for their competitions, find a larger space to practice cheerleading routines in regularly and to try to get the legal work completed so we can become a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, said Holloway. But I have had a really hard time getting around to making Hot Topic a 501 (c) 3 non-profit because I dont exactly know where to start. And, we dont really have the money to pay the legal fees.
Holloway went on to explain, The costs associated with cheerleading run about $100 to $150 a month per girl for nine months of the year, and the five of us coaching do not take any salary. We volunteer all of our time. It is tough for a lot of the parents to come up with the fees and we do not want to add to the burden by increasing the Hot Topic All Star cheerleading fees to cover attorneys expenses for becoming a 501 (c ) 3. But, we may have to in order to become a 501 (c ) 3 because then we could make our donations tax-deductible. Maybe that would help bring down everyones costs for cheerleading.
Right now, most parents are paying for their daughters to participate, and for many, the monthly fees are a struggle. Groups like the Alexandria Firefighters have been supportive and that helps Holloway, Hawkins and Farmer reduce the fees for some girls.
Hot Topic is far more than just a cheerleading organization. It has proven itself to be a strong mentoring program for young girls and the results of recent competitions indicate the strong focus on character and sportsmanship. In a competition at Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, MD, last November, not only did all the Hot Topic teams win first place in their respective divisions,they also won the Best Sportsmanship Award.
The teams again took home several honors January 17 in a competition in Raleigh, NC.
Two Hot Topic teams won first place and one team won second place. Most telling about the participants is that they again won the Best Showmanship Award in addition to Best Uniform/Costume Award and Spirit of a Champion Award.
In the end, if the Hot Topic All Star Cheerleaders help the girls have good self-esteem, keep their grades up, teaches them dedication and commitment and the importance of volunteering in their community while they are having fun, then we will feel we have done our best. Hopefully, the Hot Topic All Star teams will continue do well in their competitions too, exclaims Holloway.
For more information about Hot Topic All Star Cheerleading or to sponsor a girl, make a donation or help with the legal work necessary for the Hot Topic All Stars to become a 501 (c ) 3, please call Brenda Holloway at 240-644-9267 or go to www.hottopicallstars.com. In addition, the Hot Topic All Stars are looking for a gym or practice space for regular rehearsals.