Hard work and learning pays off for University of Kentucky teaching student

Mercedes Laster Photo by Charlotte Berger

Mercedes Laster
Photo by Charlotte Berger

By Charlotte Berger
Advertising Director
Special to the News and Press

I had the memory of a lifetime to see my granddaughter, Mercedes Brooke Laster, graduate with honors from the University of Kentucky on Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education Degree and is currently teaching elementary level students in Kentucky as part of her final semester requirements. She will begin her new teaching career in the fall with a selected school.

My granddaughter will be 22 years young in July and she shared with me her feelings about her “growing” years at UK. “It has been a lot of work and effort, but it all was worth it. The long hours of studying, practicing with my cheer teammates, traveling to cheer camps, attending the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Nationals Competitions in Orlando, Florida each year along with numerous other community activities; learning has been so rewarding for me. I give God credit first and really appreciate and love my family who have been there for me and still are, our UK Cheer Coach, Jomo Thompson, my instructors, and other special people in my life who played a part in helping me achieve my goals these past four years. I am looking forward to a satisfying career in teaching. However, I also plan to pursue a PhD in Psychology degree in the future.”
Even though she had several college offers as a senior at North Laurel High School in Kentucky, Mercedes signed on with University of Kentucky and was offered a full scholarship for Cheerleading for the college located in Lexington, KY, which she accepted. She proceeded to pursue her college studies and cheerleading career immediately after graduating high school. It has not been an easy journey, but nothing truly worthwhile ever is. She has been cheerleading since sixth grade and now she is ready to help her students learn all they can and to never give up on any task they try to accomplish.

“Everyday is a challenge and I believe I can help make a positive impact on the children whom God places me with. I want to help them have good and happy memories of their early school days. The elementary years is the time to help mold them into learning well so when they get to junior and high school levels, they will be prepared for the courses they will need to take to be ready for their future in college, “ she said.

From pompoms, pyramids, thousands of hours of practice, stunts, attending all the games, cheerleaders take no back seat in their profession. They all work so hard to be the best they can be. Wearing the UK Cheer uniform is not something just given to a cheerleader; it is earned with lots of practice and hard work and for them to keep that UK uniform and title as number one cheerleading team in the nation is even more important. In January 2016, the University of Kentucky Cheer Team won their 21st title for competing in the UCA Nationals and is presently number one in the nation for their cheerleading competitions.

I have followed her success throughout her four years of college. Thank God for cell phones and technology! Since the first UK football game to the final game of basketball, I have all of her games recorded on my DVR in which I watched her do her cheerleading on camera.

I am so proud of Mercedes as well as all of my grands. I know she is going to excel no matter what she does. No matter what she had to encounter to achieve her goals, she never gave up. It makes my heart glad to know she is prepared to accomplish her dreams and succeed in life.

Author: Jana Pye

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