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DONNA MARIE: Passing the Spirit Stick

While dancing on the sidelines at MetLife Stadium definitely is the very best seat in all of football, I can't wait for next week to be sitting up in the stands at my sister Jolene's first game as a Mahwah High School cheerleader!

As our Jets season got kicked off last week with a series of events all around the city from a performance at Hoboken's Pier Park to a Subway Blitz that canvassed Manhattan, the MHS Cheerleaders have been hard at work preparing for their own big homecoming celebration.

Mahwah is a town where so many homecoming traditions are still met with enormous excitement. Spirit week kicks off with everyone coming to school late at night to deck the halls, every day is a theme day, the entire gym is covered in streamers for the pep rally, and each class donates a car to build its own giant homecoming float on top of for the Kings and Queens to ride on. It is a rare time in high school when cliques don't seem to matter and pride and spirit are contagious.

Looking back, I feel so lucky to have grown up in a place that held on to these somewhat lost traditions — in fact, many of my best cheerleading memories are the ones my younger sister is about to embark on. She is going to cheer on the same field I cheered on, have the same coach, and go to the same cheerleading camps and competitions.

It is a very special feeling to see her excitement swell over getting her uniform and learning their first halftime dance. It is the same feeling I had then and am so fortunate to continue to have as a Flight Crew Cheerleader.

I am so impressed by the effort she put in to the tryout process. It wasn't easy for her. She had a lot to learn in a short period of time. But she didn't get defeated. Instead, she worked at it with tenacity, positivity and a level of determination that I admire.

Jolene and I are 14 years apart — she was born just a few days before I started high school. When she was a baby, she came bundled up to the football games every Friday night with my parents, and once she could walk would love come down and "cheer" with the cheerleaders after the game was over. All of the girls loved her. We would toss her in the air and let her use our pompons. She was like our own little mascot.

Now she is going to be on the very same sideline this time as a cheerleader herself, and I couldn't be more proud of my little sister!

—Donna Marie

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