BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Every week, cheerleaders run onto the football field, full of spirit to cheer their school’s team on to victory. At Biloxi Junior High, one cheerleader is also inspiring her school and community.
Eight grade student Bailey Edwards has Down Syndrome but those who know her say it doesn’t stop her from stepping up to any challenge.
“She inspires everybody and she lifts everybody up if they feel down,” said teammate Aislyn Leary.
“She has her struggles but she can get through them so well, she’s super smart,” said Layla Prentiss, who has known Bailey since kindergarten.
Teammates note that Bailey is widely known for her dance moves.
“She’s a really good dancer, and she’s a really good cheerleader,” said cheer mom Cherie Prentiss.
And dancing is exactly what Bailey loves the most about cheering!
“Doing the stunts is good! It’s fun to be out here and playing out here,” she said. “Everybody’s so supportive of me.”
Bailey’s instructors believe her incredible work ethic is what makes her shine on and off the field.
“Bailey earns everything that she gets. Nothing’s given to Bailey," said assistant principal Michelle Boudreaux. “She works just as hard, probably a little bit harder, than everyone else."
Biloxi Junior High students said they are inspired to be like Bailey: confident, fearless, and full of heart.
“She just shows that whatever disability you have, you can do whatever you need to, whatever you want," said Layla Prentiss.
This is Bailey’s last season on the Biloxi Junior High Cheer Squad but she’s excited to start ninth grade next year.
Other schools in the area also encourage students with different abilities to join in on cheer squad and other school activities. In fact, Ocean Springs High was the first school in Mississippi to form an inclusive cheer team back in 2015. Their Sparkle Squad formed in 2015 through an organization called The Sparkle Effect and is made up of young ladies who are differently-abled.