Three Cheers for Cheerleaders!
In keeping with our back-to-school/sports theme we thought it would be fun to find some former cheerleaders and find out where they are and if they still have spirit! After reading about these fun ladies, we’d say it’s a definite W-I-N!
Tammy Grant, Brandon - My name is Tammy Grant, and I am a 1986 graduate of Brandon High School. My parents moved to Brandon (from Pearl) when I was two years old. I went to Brandon schools from first grade through twelfth grade. During my high school years, I began cheerleading. It was great fun at BHS! We had exciting pep rallies and thrilling basketball and football games. Although that was a “few” years ago, many people still get excited at the BHS games!
After my days at BHS, I went to University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Nursing and received my Bachelor of Science in nursing. My nursing career has consisted of labor and delivery, home health, medical record/quality review, nursing administration and special investigations. Nursing has been a great career with many opportunities which has been wonderful for me as a woman and as a mother.
As wonderful as my career has been, I have been even more blessed to be the mother of three wonderful children and Grammy to five beautiful grandchildren. Proud would be an understatement! My children and grandchildren just so happen to be some of the cutest people you might see around Rankin County.
And last, the Lord blessed me ten years ago by answering my prayers when I met a man in Sunday school at a local church. We have been together ever since that October Sunday morning in 2010. I am thankful and blessed to be a lifelong Rankin County resident. Cheers to you, Rankin County!
Michelle Carter, ERA – I am Michelle (Edwards) Carter, and I cheered for the East Rankin Academy Patriots beginning in 8th grade in 1988 until graduation in 1992 and was co-captain my senior year. I am married to Chris Carter who was a 1985 ERA graduate, and we have two sons, Reed and Ben, who both graduated from East Rankin in 2017 and 2021. Chris, Reed, and Ben all played football for ERA. Moody Davis Field is like a second home to me, and I hope one day to watch future grandchildren play for the school that I love!
I admit that in high school I didn’t truly understand the game of football. I knew when to cheer for the offense or defense, but beyond that I didn’t know the intricate details of the game. When my boys began playing the sport, I asked Chris to explain the game to me so that I wouldn’t be “one of those moms” that yelled the wrong thing at the wrong time. I can now proudly tell you that I understand the spread offense and the difference between man-to-man and zone coverage defense. My boys taught me to truly love the game.
My family and I reside in the Crossroad Community just south of Pelahatchie, where we own a cattle and poultry farm. I opened Brickhouse Fitness Center in Pelahatchie in 2014. After I received my Masters of Education from the University of Southern Mississippi, I was a high school teacher/coach for the Rankin County School District at Puckett Attendance Center for seven years before leaving the teaching profession to become a full time mom to my two boys. I briefly taught at East Rankin Academy and then took on the role of running the ERA Athletic Booster Club for over 12 years. I am currently the director of outreach programs for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and a member of the board of directors for the Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Clara Shack, Florence - My name is Clara Griffith Shack. I was a Florence High School cheerleader from 1979 to 1981. I always looked forward to cheering each year and I was blessed to cheer with my sister for two of those years.
I am married to Tommy Shack. We have three children who are married and have blessed us with six beautiful grandchildren. We currently live in Florence. We retired in 2020 from our business, Shack’s Welding Service in Flowood which my father-in-law started over 50 years ago. We are active members of Star Baptist Church. We love to travel especially to the northwest corner of Montana. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for all my family and all His many blessings.
McKenzie Henderson, Hartfield - When Hartfield Academy opened in 2012, I joined the cheer team as an 8th grader. On our first junior varsity squad, we had six girls on the team. Over the next five years, I was able to watch the team go from a small group of young cheerleaders to a large group of talented team members. For me, cheering was what I loved to do, and during my time at Hartfield, I was given opportunities to walk out in leadership within my team. Some of my favorite high school memories are on the sidelines of the football field and basketball court, cheering on the Hawks and being surrounded by teammates that I loved.
As I graduated from high school in 2017, I made the decision to leave my cheerleading career at Hartfield as I pursued my college education at Mississippi State University. As of this year, 2021, I have completed my bachelor’s degree in business administration, and I am working as a visual associate at Miskelly Furniture. I will be getting married this fall to my high school sweetheart and love of my life, Franklin Miskelly. Franklin played basketball at Hartfield which means I had the privilege of cheering for him and the Hawk team during our time there. I will be forever thankful for these sweet memories and for the opportunity to cheer for a school that has been so influential in my life- emotionally, academically, and spiritually.
Sharon Patrick, McLaurin – My name is Sharon Bowman Patrick and I had the honor of wearing McLaurin High School’s green and gold uniform my 7th thru 10th grade years and was mascot my junior year. Some of my favorite memories were on the sidelines on Friday nights cheering on the Tigers. Feeling the excitement in the air, listening to the band as they played “The Eye of the Tiger” and knowing that everyone in the stands was there supporting you and those on the field—there was nothing like it. It was an honor to wear that uniform. My 10th grade year our squad qualified to compete at the National High School Cheerleading Championship. I will never forget what it felt like to walk out and hear them say, “Now up from Florence, Mississippi, we have the McLaurin High School Tigers!” I graduated from McLaurin in 1993. I am also a graduate of Mississippi State University. I am married to Alex Patrick and we have two daughters, Hannah (24) and Sydni (17). Hannah is a teacher and coach at McLaurin High School and Sydni is a senior at Puckett High School. My family and I have lived in the Cato community for the past twenty-six years. I am currently the public relations manager
for the Rankin County School District.
Jessica Simmons, NWR - My name is Jessica Reedy Simmons. I am 34 years old and live in Flowood. My husband, J.C., and I have been married for seven years and have a two-year-old little girl and another baby girl who was born in June. I am a member of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Brandon and work for Boleware/Vassar Orthodontics in Ridgeland, Jackson, and Clinton.
I attended Northwest Rankin from kindergarten to 12th grade and graduated from Northwest Rankin High School in 2005. I was a cheerleader from 7th grade through my senior year and loved every bit of it—from practice with the team, to ballgames and competitions. Go Cougars! I was also on the competitive dance team at Rhonda Whitehead's School of Dance from age seven to my senior year. After graduating from NWR, I attended Mississippi State University and was on the dance team for four years and captain my senior year. Hail State! Let's go Dawgs!
Once a Cougar, always a Cougar! N-O-R-T-H-W-E-S-T Northwest Cougars, Go Big C! Our two girls will be ready to cheer on the NWR Cougars in black and gold and the MSU Dawgs in maroon and white before we know it!
LaToya Thompson, Pearl – I am LaToya Redd Thompson, and I cheered at Pearl High School on the football squad and the basketball squad (two different squads) from fall 1995 through spring 1999.
My favorite times related to cheering involved the hard work we did together as a team, such as preparing for competition, preparing for pep rallies, and preparing to cheer for games. Learning stunts, dances, and cheers, stretching, working out, and laughing together were some of my favorite memories. I also really enjoyed pep rallies. Pep rallies provided an opportunity to be creative and a public outlet to express how much we loved our school and our athletes. Also, during pep rallies, the squad was an integral part of bringing the school together behind one mission–beating the other team! It was a good feeling to be a part of accomplishing that unity. And the energy level, to which we contributed, was so high!
I left my hometown of Brandon and went off to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for college, came back to Mississippi to earn my law degree at Ole Miss, and now live in an unincorporated area of Rankin County off Highway 49. I am an attorney in private practice. My husband Marcus Thompson, also a native of Rankin County, is the deputy commissioner of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and pastor of Mountain Ridge and Little Zion Methodist churches in Rankin County. We have three children – Kaelyn, Jessica, and Marcus Thompson, Jr. – and one grandson, Gerren.
Joetta Watson, Pelahatchie - My name is Joetta Watson and I am a former Pelahatchie High School cheerleader. I graduated as co-captain with the class of 2003. In that year, I was also nominated as an All-American Cheerleader for my excellent jumps. My favorite memories are from the cheerleading camps at Mississippi State and Southern Miss. where we were able to bond, learn new routines, and meet other squads. The pep rallies were always exciting and we always had the best of times at the away games.
I currently reside in Pelahatchie and my sons (Elijah and Edan) are now proud Pelahatchie Chieftains. I'm the lead title specialist for Insurance Auto Auctions of MS and also a certified phlebotomist. Pelahatchie High School will always hold a special place in my heart and those memories will always bring me joy. It's so exciting to see how much the school and programs have grown. I still work within my community and I'm incredibly proud to call Pelahatchie my home. #Tribe #ChiefNation #WeArePelahatchie
Beth McKay, Pisgah - Because of cheerleading, I have so many wonderful memories from high school. From UCA summer camps to after school practices, I always had something to keep me busy during the summer and during the school year. I graduated in 2002 and married my high school sweetheart and our football team’s starting center.
After two years at Hinds Community College, I transferred to Millsaps where I cheered for one season. I graduated with my B.A. in English in 2006 and returned to Pisgah to teach. In 2007, I started the M.A. English program at Mississippi College. I graduated in 2010 and immediately became an adjunct instructor at Hinds.
This past year marks 15 years at Pisgah and the start of my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards journey. Currently, I sponsor Pisgah’s Beta Club, prom, and a book club for upperclassmen. My husband and I celebrated our 19th anniversary this past year. We have three children and are members of First Baptist Fannin.
Emma Grace Roberts, PPCA - My name is Emma Grace Roberts. On a whim, I decided to try out for cheer at Northwest Rankin in the 7th grade. I cheered there for two years, and then decided to transfer to Park Place Christian Academy where I cheered all throughout high school. My favorite memories were always made on the sidelines. I loved cheering on our team with our fans, seeing the little girls with their pig tails and bows mimicking every move you make, and even cheering in the blazing heat to the freezing cold. My most favorite memory was cheering all those years right alongside my best friend. Cheer shaped me in ways I can’t explain! This fall I will be attending Mississippi State University as a business major. I’m excited to be a Bulldog and so thankful to have been able to cheer all those years!
Marley Roberson, Jackson Prep - I graduated from Jackson Prep in 1998 where I cheered 7th through 12th grade and served as captain the 1997-1998 school year. Almost all of my favorite memories from high school involve cheer. I loved everything about game week, painting the players' cars while they were at team meetings, tailgating from Highland Village to Prep on Friday mornings, pep rallies, and the after-game dinners with the football team and parents. My all-time favorite memory was the water war we had with the football team during summer practice my senior year. We had water balloons and water guns waiting on them when they came off the field from practice. Cheer beach was also one of my favorite bonding times with the squad.
Today I live in Flowood with my husband Randall and our three kids, Elam (11th grade), Woods (9th grade) and Wynn (6th grade) who all attend Jackson Prep. My daughter Elam is currently a Jackson Prep High School cheerleader, so it has been fun watching her enjoy the same Prep cheer traditions that I loved so much. I was captain Coach Ricky Black’s first year as Prep’s head football coach, so it was special that Elam got to cheer his last season. We are excited that she will be cheering this season to kick off the next era of Prep football with the new head coach Tyler Turner.
Whitney Smith, Puckett – I am Whitney Madden Smith. I graduated from Puckett High School in 2004. While there, I was a cheerleader for six years, from 1997-2003. I truly loved cheering the Wolfpack to victory. Cheerleading taught me a general work ethic, teamwork, and discipline. The highlight of my cheer career was the football team winning the 1A State Championship in 2002, where even the cheer squad was awarded championship rings.
After high school, I earned my associate degree from Jones County Junior College in Ellisville in 2006 and my degree in cosmetology in 2008 from JCJC. I have worked as a hairdresser at LaCru Salon in Flowood for the past thirteen years and can proudly say that I love my job! I get the pleasure of working with a wonderful group of women in the process.
I am happily married, for almost thirteen years, to Cole Smith from Brookhaven, who is the parks and recreation director for the City of Richland. We have two beautiful sons. Beckett is five years old and will be in K5 program at East Rankin Academy, while Shepard is twenty-two months old. We are also active members at Cato Baptist Church. My favorite Bible verse comes from Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not onto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
Mary Ellen Snow, Richland - I was a cheerleader at Richland Attendance Center from 7th through 12th grade. Since it was a small school, I was able to cheer and perform with the band at ballgames. One of my favorite memories is the quick change I had to do on the sideline into my band uniform to march at halftime, then quick change back to my cheer uniform for the second half.
After I graduated (’94), I completed my B.S. in chemistry from MSU. While I worked on my M.S., I taught chemistry at Richland High School for a short time. I completed my Master of Chemistry from Mississippi College and began working at Ergon, Inc. where I am now the global product stewardship manager.
My husband Christopher and I live in Richland with our son, Quinn, who will be entering the 3rd grade at Richland Upper Elementary. We attend First Baptis Richland and my husband and I are both active in our school’s PTO.