Super Bowl Cheerleaders Stepping It Up To Promote…STEM Careers?

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What was your fave moment of the Super Bowl XLIX? We definitely have a top 3, and (no surprises here) they have nothing to do with football!

3. Katy Perry being a badass and performing her collection of female empowerment anthems with Lenny Kravitz and surprise guest Missy Elliot.

2. Aside from all the other big commercials everyone looks forward to seeing, we thought the best was the PSA created by Nomore.org to raise awareness about domestic violence. So timely!

1. The cheerleaders. No, we’re not joking!

You have have seen the troupe of dancing, high-kicking, high-energy girls on the field yelling the usual cheers and cries. Only they weren’t “usual” at all. Cheerleaders from the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks replaced their standard cheers with those promoting academic subjects such as science, tech, engineering and math.

Yep, they had STEM cheers! Ten girls from the Pats squad and at least 3 from the Seahawks cheer team are currently pursuing degrees or careers in STEM industries.

The idea came from an organization called Science Cheerleader which was started by Philadelphia-based mom of four Darlene Cavalier.

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During her college years she was a pro cheerleader and did it to pay her tuition fees. She soon stopped and decided she needed to get a “proper” job. She worked at Discover magazine and Walt Disney Publishing for 15 years and climbed the corporate ladder successfully. It was while she was working in this industry that she realized just how much science is in everyday life, but that there was a disconnect between the STEM industries and society.

She ended up going back to school, at the University of Pennsylvania and studied science history, sociology, and science policy. Her idea was that she wanted to combine the academic attitude of UPenn, the mass reach of Disney, and the in-your-face, pom-pom waving personality of a 76ers Cheerleader to enable ordinary citizens to know they can shape public policy by empowering them with the knowledge of science.

Her career path has been equal parts unique and revolutionary. She has worked with some of the brightest minds in science, the media and the government to create several national science awards programs, science education initiatives and TV programs, and a series of science-themed roundtable discussions for, among others, the Disney Institute at EPCOT, Space.com, Sally Ride’s Imaginary Lines, the National Science Foundation, and the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation.

One of the shows she helped create was the Emmy award-winning Science of NFL Football series produced by the NFL, NBC Sports, NBC Learn, the National Science Foundation and Science Cheerleader.

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Today Darlene is a part-time professor at Arizona State University and relished the opportunity to spread her powerful message on such a huge platform at the Superbowl.

Many professional cheerleaders today have careers outside of the football stadium, and this is what Science Cheerleader is promoting. The group has garnered criticism from some feminist blogs, according to story on Fusion.net, but it gave Darlene to chance to speak up and tell her critics that the girls in her organization are not just cheering for science, they ARE scientists.

“They would just see an image of this woman dressed in our Science Cheerleader outfit and think that they were just out there cheering for science, not aware that they are scientists and engineers,” Darlene said.

There are over 300 current and former cheerleaders from both the football and basketball leagues that study or work in STEM fields. If that’s not the definition of “more than just a pretty” face, we don’t know what is!

“I was once a cheerleader, and now I’m cheering for science,” said Darlene.

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“Most people have careers outside of cheer leading and I think it’s great for young girls to realize that you can be a cheerleader and you can also be involved in other things,” said Melanie Sanches, a rookie Pats cheerleader and Tufts University dental student.

Kelly Bennion is a New England Patriots Cheerleader and is also pursuing her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. She told Fusion.net the media training she gets in cheer leading helps her present scientific research, explaining how the two vastly different industries can have an impact on one another.

“I think that that has helped me become a better communicator, especially to larger audiences. They get to see that you can be very well-rounded, that you can excel in a very athletic physical domain, but also that you can excel academically,” she said.

While there has been a lot of rising disenchantment with the NFL cheerleader programs because of the way they underpay the girls (some don’t even get minimum wage and have sued various teams), the Science Cheerleader organization is giving girls the inspiration to not give up cheer leading, but also pursue other areas of interest to become a more well-rounded person.

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“For cheerleaders, it works to combat the negative stereotype that they’re only pretty faces. It shows that cheerleaders are very hard-working and are pursuing advanced educations in engineering, math, biology and other great things,” Kelly told Philly.com

“It also shows that scientists are not always the stereotypically nerdy people who can’t manage to hold a normal conversation. Scientists are people too, and they can have hobbies. It works nicely from both sides.”

Here’s to an awesome lady, Darlene Cavalier, and her team of badass women changing the conversation and stereotypes when it comes to cheer leading! What a cool way to engage more women and empower them to also pursue their dreams while also making a difference in the world.

If you missed the Science Cheerleaders doing their thang at the Super Bowl, you can check them out in action in this special report from the Today show:

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Science Cheerleaders team up with Arizona State University: Science at the SuperBowl ! | Science Cheerleader

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