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Clare Dillard’12: Cheerleading Captain and President

We sat down with this positive and ambitious Berks senior to discuss cheerleading, her passions, and how she manages her crazy-busy lifestyle.

Cheerleading Captain/President Clare Dillard has a lot on her plate at the moment. As a senior elementary education major, much of her time is devoted to student teaching and completing her undergraduate thesis. On top of that, she is an active member of the Education Club, the Honors Club, and THON, and must fulfill her duties as a Lion Ambassador, Schreyer Honors Scholar, and Cheerleading Captain/President. "My life right now is very, very hectic," she tells us. With very little free time, it’s lucky that Clare’s main source of de-stress is already secured in her jam-packed schedule. “My de-stressor is cheerleading practice,” she says. She sees practice as a time to unwind and catch her breath. "It gives me a break from student teaching and the stress of school work. Plus, I really enjoy it."

 Another reason Clare finds it easy to relax while at practice is because she knows she is surrounded by friends. Her face lights up as she talks about her squad: "I’m their leader but I’m also their friend no matter what." As team captain and friend, she feels the need to set a positive example for her team—on and off the basketball court.  In addition to being a role model, she acts as a mentor, guide, and even tutor to the men and women of her squad. If someone on her squad is struggling in a class and may need to drop cheerleading because of it, she takes time out of her intense schedule to personally tutor them. Her sincere compassion shows as she tells me how she is willing to help out her teammates with whatever they need and whenever they need it. "I’ve had people with personal problems call me up. I don’t care if it’s 3 a.m., I tell them, call me!"

None of this, however, is required by her coach, who, Clare insists, tries not to put too much extra work on her. Why then, does she see it as imperative to always be there for her squad? Although she admits it isn’t part of her duties as cheerleading captain, she feels compelled, as a leader, to support her squad in any way they need it. "As the leader of the team you don’t want to let anyone go and seehave to stop doing something they enjoy."

Holding the cheerleading captain and president position for the third year in a row is only part of a long list of leadership experience. Another stand-out role on this list is Clare’s internship in Rwanda, Africa. Her student teaching experience in Rwanda highlights her humble, caring, and down-to-earth personality. She shares what it was like to live and work in Rwanda for four weeks.

"I fell in love with my students. The Rwandans are the most kind, gentle people I have ever met in my life. They inspired and encouraged me. They have almost nothing but they are still happy. It’s a completely different world and made me appreciate what I have so much more. There is rarely running water, and when there is it is cold. The food is not what you experience here. I learned to appreciate their culture so much."

With such an array of achievements, which does Clare consider to be her greatest? She answers simply, "How involved I got on this campus." She continues, "I have over exceeded my expectation of what my college career would be. I’ve done things I never would have dreamed of doing." She smiles as she shares a sampling of the things she never thought she would accomplish: She has achieved a 4.0 GPA and made dean’s list every semester, became a finalist in the Mrs. Penn State Berks contest, was on homecoming court this year, and is on a billboard on 422 representing Berks.
Clare has certainly made a name for herself around campus. It isn’t just her accomplishments, however, that have attracted attention from students and faculty alike, but her sincere personality and optimistic attitude. Clare has the ability to light up a room when she walks in and the interpersonal skills to make any person feel special. After our interview, it is clear that this isn’t an act; She is truly a sweet, admirable, and charismatic person. We asked Clare to reveal her secret to us and she shared her words to live by. ‘Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?’ "If you walk around with a smile on your face, it’s going to make other people smile. If you have a positive outlook others pick up on that. I just try to live my life to the fullest." She also identified her huge support system as a main source of her attitude and drive. As the sixth of seven siblings, her big family is what keeps her going. “I wouldn’t be anywhere today without my family and friends,” she says. Always aiming to be a positive influence, she left us with this advice for Berks students: "People tend to see college as a big struggle. But stay positive! In the end your hard work is going to pay off." <3

Ashley is a senior professional writing major at Penn State.
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