Chisum Cheer 2.jpg

Chisum High School's cheerleading team.

For years, Jennifer Cullum has served Chisum ISD as a special ed teacher aide and a full-time teacher. Now, she’ll be adding to her services to the district, helming the Mustangs cheerleading team as its newest sponsor.

The spot opened up when former sponsor Mandy Brooks decided to step away from the team due to family reasons, and Cullum volunteered to fill the role when no one else did.

“I love the kids here at Chisum, and I really just didn’t want them to be without a leader or positive influence like that,” she said. “I really thought it was important for them to have someone there for them in their corner, so I decided to do it.”

For Cullum, who entered the role with no experience in cheerleading prior to this, it’s been a learning experience in the few short months since she took the position.

“There’s definitely been quite the learning curve, but I’ve been putting in a lot of work to get caught up to speed,” she said with a laugh. “We went to a leadership camp over the summer, and I think that helped me as much as it helped them.”

Cullum noted she’s the team’s sponsor and not coach, and pointed out the difference between the two. A coach, she said, is involved in the choreography of dances and stunts, while a sponsor serves as a counselor of sorts, supporting the cheerleaders, providing structure to practices and managing things behind the scenes.

When it does come to the construction of routines, Cullum said she looks to two of the biggest leaders on the squad, captain Brooke Bridges and senior Kaylie Spradlin.

“Brooke is knowledgeable and a great leader,” Cullum said. “Unfortunately she got injured earlier this year and so her role changed a bit, but she is still great at leading the team. … And Kaylie is my go-to for something whenever Brooke is called away doing something else.”

One of Cullum’s favorite parts of heading up the cheerleading team has been seeing the group come out of their shells.

“They’re quiet individuals off the field, but I’ve been so proud of how loud and intense they are at pep rallies and at the first game,” she said. “They do not stay stagnant, and they bring so much energy to the sideline, considering how few of them there are.”

As the year progresses, she said, she can’t wait to see them grow even louder.

“They’re a great team,” she said. “There’s no attitudes or bickering. They’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and I’m just so thankful for them.”

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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