The San Marcos Royal Gems Cheer Team made their debut at a Varsity Girls Basketball in front of a capacity crowd at San Marcos High School on last Wednesday, January 18. This new team, started and led by AAPLE Academy student and San Marcos Varsity Cheerleader Layla Landeros, consists of students with and without disabilities. The team practices together twice a week and will cheer for the first quarter of four more home basketball games this year.
“The students (with disabilities) love coming to practice and have really bonded with their buddies on varsity cheer. They add so much to the team. All of the students are respected and included, regardless of ability. It’s a good thing for the cheerleaders, a good thing for San Marcos and a good thing for our community,” says Landeros.
AAPLE Academy Director Erik Nielsen said, “Layla has set an example for us all and her leadership exemplifies what the AAPLE Academy is all about. I am so proud of her.”
This opportunity is making a significant difference in the lives of students with disabilities. The student-run team started with the support of The Sparkle Effect, a non-profit organization that helps students nationwide create cheer and dance teams that bring together students with and without disabilities. This year Landeros piloted the team at San Marcos High School and plans to make it an official Sparkle Effect Team this summer.
Layla Landeros will continue leading the team next year at various home football and basketball games. Everyone is invited to attend the cames and cheer for the Royal Gems. Royal Gems donations will be used for uniforms, bows, poms and other items to help the cheer team.