With the new year underway there are new things happening all around Rocky Mountain College’s campus. The new science center has been complete and there is even a new parking lot that aims to help minimize the parking overflow due to new students.
This year, there is also a new member of RMC’s cheer team. Her name is Aspen Schnetter, a 20 year-old student with down syndrome. While Schnetter doesn’t attend classes at RMC, students and other members of the RMC community can find Schnetter cheering her heart out at basketball games while in formation with the rest of the Battlin’ Bears cheer squad.
“I told Aspen that I would treat her the same as I would treat any of the other girls,” said cheer coach Stacey Sorge.
Sorge explained at the beginning of the cheer season the team members need to know all of the cheers and dances in order to be able to perform. If members do not know their material they are considered an “alternate” member of the team. Schnetter did not know the material so she was considered an alternate.
However, Schnetter is self-motivated and has plenty of passion for cheering so she caught on quickly and earned herself a spot on the team. “I was very surprised by how quickly she caught on especially since she did not dance in high school,” stated Sorge. “She’s done amazing. She’s definitely put her time in and she’s doing great.”
Schnetter is a natural cheerleader. She is always smiling and encouraging others.
When Schnetter is not cheering on the basketball team she is cheering on her teammates in practice.
“She is the cheerleaders’ cheerleader,” said senior and cheer captain, Emma Constantine. “Aspen definitely makes practice way more positive because she’s always saying things like ‘You did it!’ Or ‘good job’ so it makes it more fun.”
“It feels good to be a Rocky cheerleader,” said Schnetter. She shared that one of her favorite parts of cheering is dancing and being able to perform. Her favorite dance routine is called “Bears” and requires the cheerleaders to have very precise motions.
Cheering in college is a little bit different than what Schnetter is used to but she said that she enjoys the challenge.
Schnetter loves cheering so much that she never gets nervous.
Schnetter also recognizes that there is always room for improvement. Her cheer goal for this new year is to improve when performing and to make sure she fixes her mistakes in practice.
Senior Emily Schaff works closely with Special Olympics Montana and said that she “thinks it’s wonderful that an individual with an intellectual disability is being welcomed into the Rocky community, especially on a sports team.” “Rocky as an institution is successful in getting everyone involved in some capacity, whether it’s through sports, clubs and organizations, or events planned on and off campus.”
Schaff also said, “We get comfortable in our normal surroundings that, if you didn’t grow up with someone with an intellectual disability, like me with my brother Skyler, or weren’t exposed to gatherings or events that highlighted the achievements of individuals with intellectual disabilities, you’re probably not going to know right off the bat how to have a conversation or interact with someone like Aspen. That’s why it’s so important to have Aspen be a part of the cheer team here at Rocky. It allows those interacting with her and watching her cheer to reshape their understanding of what it’s like to interact with someone different from themselves. It provides an example for people in the Rocky community and who follow Rocky for how to interact with people they’ve probably never interacted with before. And it’s important for Aspen too.”
Sorge added that, “A lot of the feedback has been positive, whether it’s families that have the same struggles or challenges and want their children to be treated normal or just the average person who thinks that it’s amazing that she’s performing at a college level.”
Aspen continues to amaze her audience and is determined to become a better performer after each practice and game.