Jordan fires up crowd with his cheers as a leader on the Sparkler team


Damion Jordon dances to a cheer with a varsity cheerleader at a junior varsity game. Jordan has Autism but comes out of his shell when he is on the field or at a pep rally as a Sparkler cheerleader. (Mireya Ibarra photo)

Damion Jordon dances to a cheer with a varsity cheerleader at a junior varsity game. Jordan has Autism but comes out of his shell when he is on the field or at a pep rally as a Sparkler cheerleader. (Mireya Ibarra photo)

Sophomore Damian Jordan looks up into the stands of over 1,000 students and teachers, his pom-poms at hand, and a smile painted on his face. He finishes his dance with his other cheer mates and strikes a pose, one hand on his hip, and one in the air. The crowd gives the team a standing ovation, and Jordan is finally living his dream of being a cheerleader.

“Show us your favorite cheer Damian!” Duncanville varsity cheerleader, Angelica Slaughter cried. Jordan, bravely got up and took center stage in the middle of the cheerleaders semi-circle. He held his poms to his chest, took a deep breath, and began, “Push ’em to the left, push ’em to the right, stand up panthers, and fight, fight, fight!”

The cheerleaders all watched as he shook his poms to the left and right of his body. “Push ’em back, push ’em back, Paanttheers attack!” He finished his cheer with a toe-touch and a smile stretching from ear to ear. Clapping and cheering for Jordan, each of them realized at a simultaneous moment, that Jordan loves what he does.

“I’m a cheerleader,” Jordan said, “I have pom-poms, and cheer shirts and cheer pants.”

What those watching would never know is that Jordan has autism and is the very first special needs, male cheerleader at the high school.  He is part of the Sparkler cheerleader team from the partners P.E. class. Not only is he the only boy on the Sparkler team but he is the first male cheerleader to be on the team for over 15 years. In accordance with all of this, Jordan is happy with his place on the team.

“I can be a boy cheerleader” Jordan said.

Jordan wanted to pursue cheer leading on his own, without the influence of a teacher or his parents, or even friends. Jordan knew he wanted to get into cheer leading, and he wasn’t going to rest until his wish was granted.

“Damian actually bothered me about three to four months prior to when I sent the slip home about him joining the team,” Sparkler coach, Mrs. Thompson said.

Never letting up, Mrs. Thompson said Damian bugged her everyday.

“Mrs. Thompson, I want to be a cheerleader. Mrs. Thompson, I want to be a cheerleader. Mrs. Thompson I want to be a cheerleader,” Damian said everyday.

At first, the coach said she did not take him seriously, until the moment he started rummaging through cheer magazines picking out uniforms he adored.  It was at that point she began taking him serious.

“This is when I realized we were  going to have a boy on the team,” Thompson said.

The following day, Thompson called Jordan’s parents to approve his repetitive request.  She explained to his parents he seemed to be really passionate about cheer leading and very excited to be able to call himself a cheerleader. Thompson then went on to explain what the Sparklers actually were to his Jordan’s parents.

“At first I thought, Aww Heck No,” Jordan’s mom, Lanettia Bankston said. “But I know he is limited to what he can participate in due to his hydrocephalus and his autism. So, cheering became a positive thing for him.”

Bankston said before cheering, Jordan had a bit of a rough time staying on beat when he would dance. However, cheering completely changed that and has helped his rhythm and helped him progress.

“His rhythm is so much better since joining the cheer squad,” Bankston said. “He can dance now and stay on beat.”

Bankston said Jordan has always been good at making friends with everyone, and being a part of the Sparklers has given him an opportunity to be more vocal.

“He loves people, he likes to talk to strangers and girls especially,” Bankston said.

Varsity cheerleader Tiffani Johnson said sometimes it is a bit difficult to hold a conversation with him  because he says the same thing at least three or four times. However those she says he talks better when he is cheering.

“When Damion is at a cheer activities or practice he has a lot more things to say,”  Johnson said.

Varsity cheer coach Stormy Pierce also said Jordan is very social. She said if you are around him he will get to know you.

“When you meet Damion, you can’t help but to become friends with him,”  Pierce said.  “He wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jordan told Senior Varsity cheerleader, Colleen Hunt, that every night he goes home and practices the cheers so he can be a good cheerleader like her.

“When Damian said this, he  just made my day,” Hunt said.

Those who work with Jordan say he is one of those people you want on your team; Damion works hard and loves cheering.

“He is willing and wants to do whatever task you give him,” Pierce said. “Damion is far from a negative person. He never has a low moment.”

Thompson said Jordan is confident about his role as a male cheerleader.

“Most of the boys in the class wouldn’t ever become a cheerleader,” Thompson said.  “But [Damion] is fearless.”

Jordan says after he goes home every day and works on cheers, he then comes to school and supports the rest of the team as they prepare for game day.

“His attitude, facial expressions, performance and movements are always over the top,” Pierce said.  “You can’t help but watch him.”

Jordan admits he loves what he does for the team. He takes his spot every time he gets a chance and cheers on the team.

“I like to cheer in front of an audience,” Jordan said, “I like the cheer partners, and I like cheering with my friends.”

Jordan has Autism and cheer leading is one of the things he loves to do. Jordan’s mother said being part of the team has been a blessing for him.

“Damian wants to try to be as normal as he can, but his autism doesn’t allow it at times,” Bankston said, “I am happy that he has found something that gives him a sense of normalcy.”