Lowndes cheer's Brown, Patterson sign college scholarships
Apr. 28—VALDOSTA — For the second consecutive year, Lowndes High School is sending two more competition cheerleaders to the next level.
Last May, Lowndes sent Allie Rae Ward and Taylor Wright to Louisville and Trinity Valley Community College — becoming the first cheerleaders to sign college scholarships in the program's history.
Kaleah Brown and Christiana Patterson did the same as Brown signed her letter of intent with Georgia Tech and Patterson signed with Trinity Valley Community College Thursday afternoon.
"Finally having this moment come to life is really important to me because I've spent long, hard days working as far as school and cheer," Brown said. "Having to put in that work together and seeing the results is phenomenal and it just makes me feel like everything happens for a reason and that when you put in the hard work, you can get to where you really want to go."
Patterson added, "This day means a lot to me. I've been working up to this day and this college since I was 8 years old. I can't even explain to you right now. I'm still in shock. It means a lot to me to be going to Trinity Valley and to cheer with the best of the best."
Of course, Thursday's signings would not be possible without Brown and Patterson's hard work and sacrifice. However, the efforts and long hours spent by coach Ariel Harmon at South Georgia Athletics and the leg work done by Lowndes cheerleading coordinator Melissa Banks were integral pieces to the puzzle.
Both Harmon and Banks shed tears when talking about what Brown and Patterson have meant to them, having started working with them since they were 8 years old.
"Oh, my gosh. This day means everything because we put in the work so that they can have these opportunities to go to college and to further their education and their athletics," Banks said. "To see them sit up here and know that I played some small part in that just means everything. This is why we coach and do what we do."
After having Ward and Wright go off to prestigious cheer programs last year, Banks believes the trail has been blazed for future Lowndes cheerleaders to use their abilities and academic excellence to make it to the next level.
"Hopefully, we're building — I don't want to say dynasty, but they are watching these girls so kids that we have coming up from the middle schools that go to South Georgia Athletics that are 3 and 4-year-olds, they see what these kids are doing and they want to be just like them," Banks said. "Three, four years down the road, this cheerleading program here at Lowndes is gonna be strong because of the example these young ladies are setting here."
Patterson added, "Them setting a pathway for us, that's amazing. I feel like that was the beginning."
For Brown, the decision to go to Georgia Tech was an easy one. The senior highlighted the location and the college community as big factors when deciding to make Tech her four-year college home.
"Definitely the community and the location," Brown said when asked what sold her on Georgia Tech. "At Tech, just having the connections around you that Tech offers is definitely the No. 1 thing that made me choose Tech."
As Patterson heads off to join a 14-time national champion at Trinity Valley, she reflects on the most important lessons she learned in her time at Lowndes.
"At Lowndes, I learned a lot about hard work, working with people and learning how to deal with people's personalities," Patterson said. "So much of what we do is working together and being a team, for sure, and still having that friendship on the side — having that discipline where you know you need to do something for your team and having that trust."
Brown added, "I've learned that hard works pays off. When you want to attack a problem, going to the people you trust is probably the best way."
As Brown points out, cheerleading is a lot harder than it looks.
The seemingly boundless energy and upbeat attitudes fans see on game days is not always easy to muster, but Brown credits the atmosphere for allowing her and her teammates to thrive when the lights are brightest.
"Mentally, of course as a cheerleader, you always have to have a smile on your face even when things that are happening in your face aren't the best or if you're hurting physically, you still have to fake it to make it," Brown said. "That's really hard, but cheering at games, seeing the crowd excited, feeling the vibes from the fans and the players just fixes the problems."
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.