BALDWIN — As part of the Baldwin Community School District's push for self-improvement, they have instituted or re-instituted a number of teams and programs which are both beneficial to the student body and integral to the school experience. One of these programs is the girls cheer team.

After several years of not having a cheer team, the school district has brought back both a high school and middle school team. This action was the work of several people involved with the school, but was headed up by Baldwin Community Schools Athletic Director Shawn Williams after he was hired last winter.

"It's a staple of all sports," said Williams. "When I found out we didn't have a team when I arrived last year, I made some phone calls and everyone was really excited at the prospect of bringing it back."

Williams and the other program supporters said the program is definitely something the school district needs. It not only helps the school but helps the young women who join the team.

"I'm trying to uplift the young ladies and have fun and enrich their lives," said middle school cheer coach Angela Harrison-El. "Hopefully it could open up some opportunities down the road with scholarships and extra-curricular requirements."

Thus far, the program has worked exactly as Harrison-El and her fellow coaches hoped. They say the grades of the participating girls have gone up and so has school spirit. The teams cheered for boys football this past autumn and will continue to cheer in the winter and spring for girls basketball.

Baldwin Schools had cheer leading squads in the past, but the teams were cut five years ago primarily for low participation.

"I know they had problems at the start and end of their seasons," said Williams. "I think it all boiled down to there being a lack of interest."

Williams went on to say he had no intention of letting that happen again.

"I'm going to be more hands-on with the coaches and the student-athletes," said Williams. "We'll be making sure they have everything they need for the program so it won't be dropped again."

The core purpose of a cheer squad is to raise school spirit, and Williams said they have been very successful in that regard. He and the rest of the athletic staff at the Baldwin Community School District have expressed their thanks to the girls on the team.

"I'm proud of them," said Williams. "It's my job to push them onto bigger and better things, and I'm always telling them what a wonderful thing they're doing for their school."