Please welcome our newest Science Cheerleader, NaShanta. Her team’s season, sadly, ended on Sunday, but she’s still keeping busy as a software analyst at the US Census Bureau and.coach of two youth cheer teams.
You have a degree in Electrical Engineering. Why engineering?
NaShanta: My father was a computer engineer for the Department of Defense, so growing up it was pretty much all I was exposed to. My father believed that science and technology is such a growing field and children should really be exposed to it at a young age in order to keep up with the changing industry.
Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
NaShanta: I tended to love math classes, especially calculus. I even took more than the required math courses in high school and college. However, my least favorite class in college was Differential Equations, also a math course, but by far the most difficult one I had to take.
Tell us about the team you cheer for, how long you’ve cheered for them, and why you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
NaShanta: I cheer for the Baltimore Ravens which is the only co-ed team in the NFL. I started in 2001, right after they won the Super Bowl. I was on for 6 years and then took three years off. At the time I was coaching All Star Competitive cheer and I felt it was important at the time to focus on the teams I was coaching. I have since then cut back on the number of teams and it has allowed me to return to actually cheering. This is now my second returning year.
Which came first? Your interest in science/engineering or cheerleading?
NaShanta: My interest in science and technology came first. Some little girls want to be princesses when they grow up, but since the age of about 6, I knew I would be doing something in math or science. I didn’t start cheering until I was 13 years old. It was something that I thought was interesting and soon fell in love with.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your professional experiences?
NaShanta: I manage to avoid any stereotypes because I lead with my education instead of what I do for recreation (cheerleading). I love cheerleading and I am extremely proud and honored to be a part of the Baltimore Raven’s Cheerleading Team. But my biggest accomplishment in life was walking across the stage at my college graduation and receiving my degree. It’s funny because most people don’t suspect that there are so many cheerleaders with math and science based degrees. Most of the time people think cheerleading is our full-time job, but it’s not. We all work hard at both cheerleading and in our personal careers.
How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in engineering?
NaShanta: A lot of the cheerleaders I meet do have science-based degrees, so I feel like it’s definitely accepted. With the Ravens, it’s about being the total package. They are looking for talented and dedicated athletes who strive for excellence in their careers, as well as those who love football and the RAVENS!
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
NaShanta: Being smart doesn’t make you a geek and being a cheerleader doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. There is a saying, “The question isn’t who will let you, but who can STOP you!” I’ve always been a leader and not a follower; most cheerleaders are (Cheer) LEADERS. It is important that you always be who you are, embrace who you are, and strive to be what you want to be. Never let someone put you in a box and say you can only be one or the other. Truth is, you can have your cake and eat it too!
What are your plans for the future?
NaShanta: I used to be a planner but I think sometimes planning too much, can limit what you can accomplish. I take life as it comes and just strive to be the best. I look for opportunities that can further my career and challenge me for the better.
Best cheerleading experience?
NaShanta: Running out of the tunnel, the excitement of the crowd, the smoke, the intense music, it’s definitely an adrenaline rush!
Best engineering-related experience?
NaShanta: Earning my degree was not easy at all. There were several times that I wanted to give up and change majors, but I had the support of my family and the academic staff to help me get through it all. So after 4 years of hard work, when I finally earned my degree, it was the best experience and the biggest weight off my shoulders. I had accomplished something that I almost didn’t think I could do.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
NaShanta: As cheerleaders we are athletes and I think it’s important to let the youth know that we can be both. Being a good role model is something I take seriously. I’ve coached competitive cheer for about 8 years now and I’ve always strived to affect the lives of our youths in a positive way.