76ers DancersThe stereotype of airhead has dogged cheerleaders for decades. Where this came from is not certain, but it could be that cheerleaders naturally have bubbly personalities; unfortunately, outgoing is wrongly associated with “dumb.” Attributing this trait to cheerleading is like saying they are not well trained athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cheerleaders are not unlike other students who are committed to their favorite activity. They attend classes, keep up with homework, practice every day after school, and they wear the uniform that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Just like others involved in school sports and extracurricular activities, cheerleaders are required to maintain specific grade point averages to remain part of the squad. This should blow the airhead image right out of the ballpark. Many go on to have very successful careers and excel in the workplace—using skills they learned balancing life, school and training.

As proof that cheerleaders are anything but airheads, Darlene Cavalier, former Philadelphia 76er cheerleader started Science Cheerleader. This organization consists of  former cheerleaders from the NFL and NBA studying or with careers in science or engineering. Their goal is to encourage members to promote science in their communities through outreach and research.

The next time you hear someone say that cheerleaders are airheads, think about these cheerleaders who have been mentoring students, creating the Philadelphia Science Festival, teaching science through cheers, and lecturing about science since 2006.

Cheerleaders typically go on to have successful careers in other fields as well because they are not afraid to put themselves out there in front of others. Some examples to consider are President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush, actress Meryl Streep, journalists Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer and so many others. Maybe it is time to start taking them more seriously.