HAVERHILL — A vivacious 4-foot 9-inch, 105-pound dynamo named Roselly Lassus has launched the first cheerleading squad Northern Essex Community College has seen in years.
Students and staff at the college will get their first glimpse of the squad in April during the annual outdoor celebration, Spring Jam.
Then in the fall, squad members hope to cheer at NECC basketball games, where they’ll make a little noise and try to stir up the crowd.
“I’ve been told the college hasn’t had a cheer team in a long time,” said Lassus, an exercise science major from Haverhill.
Now in her second year at NECC, Lassus, 21, realized there was no cheer team at the college, so she decided to get one up and running on her own last October. She reached out to Athletic Director Dan Blair to get the okay.
“I think it’s a nice addition. They have potential to be strong moving forward,” Blair said. “I’d love to have them support us at our basketball games.”
Lassus has the experience to lead a successful squad. She was captain of the varsity cheer team at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School during her junior and senior years, leading members to first-place finishes in multiple competitions.
Her squad at Northern Essex, called an “interest group” as it’s short of the 10 members needed to be designated an official club, currently has seven members. With the support of staff advisor Noelia Figuereo, Lassus continues to recruit new members.
“We just gained four new girls,” Lassus said. “We’ve been advertising via my Instagram page, as well as the college’s newsroom. And we were on the front page of the college’s student-run newspaper, the Observer.”
Some of the girls have cheerleading experience, some don’t, she said.
“You can start cheering at any time, just as long as you’re willing to learn and have basic athletic skills,” she added.
Lassus has a lot of responsibility, including raising a daughter and working full time at Burlington Coat Factory in Haverhill while attending classes part time at NECC.
Yet she carved out ample time to get the squad going. They hold practices in a former dance studio in the sports and fitness center.
A 2017 graduate of Whittier Regional High School, health occupations, Lassus has been cheerleading since the fifth grade at Bradford Elementary School.
“My older sister was a cheerleader at the Hunking School at that time and I watched her and her team practice and I wanted to do it, too,” said Lassus, who went on to cheer in the eighth grade at the Hunking for boy’s basketball home games, then at Whittier Tech football games both home and away, along with basketball games at home.
“Cheering at the high school level is more intense than in middle school,” Lassus said.
She fell in love with cheerleading as a way to manage her stress. She said she also enjoys being part of a team and motivating and teaching others.
“We have some new girls on our team and a lot of them don’t have much experience in cheering,” Lassus said.
Karleny Leon, 19, a business transfer major and graduate of Haverhill High School, said she joined the squad to cheer alongside her best friend, Lassus.
“We’re currently practicing coordinated dance moves, jumps and stunts,” Leon said.
Other members are Anny Paiz, 18, of Lawrence, Mariah Fitch, 19, of Haverhill, Cathalina Eisan, 20, of Rowley, Trinity Garodel, 19, of Newburyport, and Jessica Atkinson, 20, of Salisbury.
“I cheered for Pop Warner when I was younger, then I coached for two years while attending Triton (Triton Regional High School),” Atkinson said. “I was missing cheering so I decided to join NECC’s new squad.”
She added, “There’s something about the combination of gymnastics and dance that I really love.”
The squad’s uniforms are pretty basic: blue shorts, white T-shirts with the NECC logo, white sneakers and sparkly blue, black and white hair bows.
The group meets for practice Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room D154 of the Sports and Fitness Center and invites prospective members to drop in.
If Northern Essex had a school spirit award, Lassus would be a likely candidate.
“Eventually I’d like to have a team of 20,” she said