Science Cheerleader Hilary here to introduce you to 3rdyear veteran Denver Broncos cheerleader Hailey Jo! Hailey Jo majored in Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science during her Bachelor’s degree, then went on to an Associate’s degree in Occupational Sciences, and is now a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant. Read below to learn how Hailey Jo gives it her all for the Broncos and beyond.

Photo courtesy of Denver Broncos Cheerleaders

What turned you on to STEM and when?
Growing up, my favorite subject was science. I was intrigued by all the unknowns that came with it, which made me want to keep learning more. I was a kid who would look up home made experiments and attempt to recreate them myself. I had self-made volcanoes and sticky goo all over my mom’s kitchen! Around high school I really got interested in human anatomy, everything that is in our bodies and how those things work. When I learned there are more than 600 muscles in the body, and that we have 206 bones…WOW! I was fascinated! That is why my major in Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science was a no-brainer when I attended college. While there I learned more about physical therapy, from research and being an athlete going through physical therapy myself. I was so grateful for my therapists and all they did for me, and that’s when it hit me…I want to go into the physical therapy field. I now combine my love for human anatomy and passion for helping others in my career every day as a Physical Therapist Assistant.

Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
I have been dancing since I was a little girl, and I was very fortunate to have many strong, empowering women to look up to, helping me learn and grow not just in dance, but all aspects of life. Two of those women took their dancing to the professional level, while still balancing successful professions. I knew that one day I wanted to be in that position. Besides growing up having a passion for dancing and being a die-hard Broncos fan, it’s also what is done off the field that drew me into auditioning for the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders. We get to make an impact on so many lives, old and young through the community, while breaking down cheerleading stereotypes.  I love using this platform as an ambassador and to educate others on what being a professional cheerleader means to me.

Photo courtesy of Hailey Jo

Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.
I work as a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant traveling to skilled nursing facilities within the Denver area. I have the privilege of working with an elderly population who have medical problems or health-related conditions that limit their ability to move and perform activities in their every day lives. The care I provide to my patients might include teaching exercises for mobility, strength and balance, standing and walking with assistive devices, massage, and the use of techniques like ultrasound and electrical stimulation to help relieve pain and get the muscles working properly. I feel so honored to go to work every day, and I find it rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life, even if that is just helping them stand and take another step again.   

What does it mean for you to be practicing in the health sciences?
I am a movement expert who helps preserve the quality of life for so many individuals. I always have to remind myself…how cool is that?! Something I love about this career is that there are so many ways you can approach your treatment with each patient. You could use ten different exercises or activities for one diagnosis that will still help that patient recover. You get to be creative and keep your brain working, using your knowledge about all the movements one muscle can do and what interventions will help. And that’s just one example!  I never want to stop learning, and I continue to learn something new in this career every day. Physical therapy is always developing and growing with new interventions and technology to improve the quality of lives and I am privileged to be apart of it!

How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your career?
My career in physical therapy and being a cheerleader are both very physically demanding, but both go so much deeper than that. Being a Denver Broncos Cheerleader, we are constantly encouraging and motivating each other to be the absolute best we can in all we do, and that is no different than what I do for my patients. I want to be the person who lifts someone up when they are feeling weak or at their lowest. Being a professional cheerleader has allowed me to find my inner confidence, which can sometimes be hard as women in this society today. Remind yourself to stay grounded, humble and believe in your capabilities. I carry that with me at work, as I know I have the confidence and ability to help others. I love my job and I always tell my patients that I am cheering them on!  

There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a health science professional. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?
One of the most common questions we get as cheerleaders is whether or not this is our full time job. I will always graciously speak up for my teammates and I, and answer “no”. We are cheerleaders because we love dancing and representing the Broncos organization, but we are also proud intelligent full-time students or professionals with careers. There is always such a positive response and I find it so cool when people want to learn more about what we do. I can’t wait to see this team full of empowering women continue growing through the years. I am also honored to say that the field of physical therapy is female dominated with a 3:1 ratio, when most might think it’s a male dominated career. People often finds it impressive that I balance a demanding dance schedule and demanding career, and I love breaking down stereotypes. One of the best tools we can use is our voice, and we can use it to educate others.

Best cheerleading experience?
Aside from the game day experience and coming out of the tunnel feeling the electric atmosphere from the fans, one of my favorite cheerleading experiences is anytime I get the chance to visit the Colorado Children’s Hospital. Those kids are so brave and if we are able to take their mind off of any illness for a few minutes, I know I am doing something right. They say we are making an impact on their lives, but I hope they know they are the ones making an impact on ours. I know that I walk out of that building a better person every time, and it reminds me why I love to be a part of this organization.

Best health-related experience?
There are many experiences within school and my career that have been learning ones, but several have been life-changing experiences with one in particular right at the beginning of my working career. One patient didn’t think she would ever be able to walk again on her own after having a severe stroke. With persistence and hard work in therapy, which consisted of some setbacks but mainly progress towards her goals, she was back on her own two feet walking! It was her bright spirit and attitude towards life, along and her hug and simple “Thank you for all you have done for me” that will stay with me forever!

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Believe in your abilities, and know that you are capable of anything, big or small. Most importantly, never let anything or anyone change who you are as a person, because we are all unique in our own ways and we all have a special PURPOSE here!

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
One thing that people might not know about me is that I am an adventure junkie and love to be outside enjoying nature anywhere on a mountain during any season! I love skiing on fresh powder during the winter, and I love climbing 14,000ft mountains in the summer (especially with my dog Kota)!  I have now completed 10 14ers and want to continue climbing as many as possible. When I have a goal, I go for it 100%!

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