jessica patriots cheerleader scienceIntroducing Jessica, a cheerleader for the New England Patriots who, someday, wants to join the United States Army Nurse Corps!On Super Bowl Sunday, keep an eye out for Jessica and the other Science Cheerleaders on the Patriots cheer team. These remarkable women are challenging stereotypes, big time.
Why nursing?
Jessica: After hearing more about nursing opportunities while taking ROTC classes and personal experiences with nurses, I decided it was right for me so now I’m part of the Registered Nursing program at UCONN!

We’ll get back to that in just a moment. Tell us about you’re diverse cheerleading career.
Jessica: I cheered for my high school team at Hopedale Jr./Sr. High School for 4 years. I then cheered in college at the University of New Haven for 3 ½ years, where I was also a captain of my squad. When I decided to change my career choice, I took a year off from school and moved to Boston to cheer for the Boston Bruins as an Ice Girl. Now, I have finally reached my goal of becoming a professional cheerleader for the recent AFC Champion New England Patriots! I told my family when I was a little girl that someday I would cheer for the Patriots and worked hard to make that dream a reality. They are my favorite sports team and it is an honor and privilege to cheer for such an amazing organization!

Which came first? Your interest in science or cheerleading?
I decided I was going to be a cheerleader at age 3. That dream never died. When I was little, I wanted to be Barbie, then a vet, then a police officer or fire fighter, then a forensic scientist, and finally came to the conclusion of becoming a nurse. As I grew and matured, my career goals changed, but the dream of becoming a cheerleader never did. I have a passion for both science and cheerleading. I love what I do on and off the field.

Best part of your day job or studies?
The best part of my studies so far has been to discuss with other students or people who have chosen the same career path and hear their experiences. I get excited and motivated to know that other people have chosen the same goals as myself and have made a difference in people’s lives doing so. One of my professors works directly with cancer patients and has told me that the best part of her job is her conversations with patients and being able to make them feel comfortable while going through such hard times. Another student in my class was already active Army before coming back to school to become an officer and has given me so much advice about joining the military and what it has done for him. Everyone has a different story to share, and I cannot wait until it is my turn to make a difference in someone’s day or life as a nurse as well.

Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Being a cheerleader actually helped my studies. The University of New Haven (my first school) requires all student athletes to maintain a minimum GPA, and our coaches usually made that GPA requirement even higher for their own standards. I was also required to attend mandatory study hall hours every week and submit my weekly grades to my coach. I feel this helped me stay focused, especially when the season started to get busy with competition and playoff games. Now that I am surrounded by 30 other successful and motivated women on my current team with the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, I am even more driven to do well and reach my career goals. I see the career choices my teammates have made and the hard work they put in to get there and many of them have become role models to me because of that.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Do it all! I was the nerd who loved to read and worked hard for my grades when I was younger. But I could not have become a cheerleader if I didn’t study hard in school or go for my career goals. In high school and college, you cannot be an athlete unless you are a student first. This means good grades and ambition to succeed and further your education. The women I am surrounded by now all have a passion for what they do on and off the sidelines. It is important to follow your dreams now matter what they are or how many you may have. Each and every one of us dreamed of becoming a cheerleader, but we also have our own career goals and dreams as well. I reached one goal and am still pursuing another. I think anyone can do that. It’s just a matter of setting your mind and heart on something and going for it!

Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
At 12, I would have given myself the advice to have fun every day and really experience every moment in my life. It’s true that you look back and miss the things you once took for granted. When something is a part of your everyday life, you never think someday you will be moving on to something new and looking back with only memories. If I could go back, I would take more pictures too! The pictures I do have, I still look at all the time and remember how much fun those moments were or how meaningful.

Best cheerleading experience?
Jessica: There are way too many “best cheerleading experiences.” I have to go with the most recent one. When the Patriots won the AFC Championship game, we were all together on the field on the same sideline. We were all so excited and even crying tears of joy, jumping up and down and hugging each other. It was the best feeling in the world to celebrate with my teammates and coach after such a huge win and to all be together for it. We watched the ceremony and had confetti falling on us and fireworks going off over the stadium. It still feels like a dream and I think that moment always will. Only 31 women can say they were on that field when that happened. 31 and I was one of them. I will never forget that moment.

Best science-related experience?
My experience comes from my first surgery and not something I have done myself. The nurse who walked me through everything before the surgery made me feel so much better when I was crying from being scared. She even took the time to come back into my room after it was all over to check on me even though she was no longer on duty. She knew how nervous I was and wanted to make sure everything went well an hour after her shift was over. It was not her job to be there for me after her work day was done, and yet she still came back just because she truly cared about her patient. I look up to her for that and hope that when I become a nurse, I can be just as amazing as she was to me to my patients.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
The fact that I want to join the military. I do not come from a military family and did not grow up wanting to join the Army. It was through my experience in military science classes and then ROTC that I decided it was something I wanted. I want to help people without hurting people, so I believe that my career choice as a nurse will do just that. I believe in our country and in our military and want to do my best to contribute in some way. Many people do not put “Army” and “Cheerleader” in the same sentence; however, I have met many women in the military who were once cheerleaders!

If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
The more I have spoken with other nurses and explored my career options with a nursing degree, the more passionate I become about it. I believe that I was led in this direction for a reason and that I can do some good with it. I am excited to see where my career goals and degree take me. I have no regrets about my choice to pursue a career in nursing.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I have a passion for both cheerleading and pursuing my nursing degree. I never thought that the two would somehow collide, but I always knew I would go for my goals no matter what and do my best to achieve them.

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