GANADO, Ariz. – Under the astute and watchful eye of coach and special education teacher Sharon Campbell, the Ganado Hornets, the Navajo cheerleading team of intermediate school girls ages 8 – 12, prospered. The team had only been together for about one year, but had racked up an impressive string of victories. Although they lost their first major competition in Phoenix, failure slid off their backs. “We went home feeling as if we could compete. We felt even more determined to win,” said Campbell.
And prevail they did. They won so many competitions over the next two years that they were invited to the prestigious Sharp Sports Nationals, held in Las Vegas April 22 – 23. To beat so many competitive teams, the girls practiced after school four days a week. “It was exhausting but worth the extra effort,” Campbell said. “They were pumped up about Las Vegas. I’d never seen them so excited.”
The two-day competition in Las Vegas was tough. Eight other teams from across the West also wanted to snag the first place trophy. Only one team would take it home. Would it be the Hornets?
“I told the girls to go out there and have a good time. Stay loose and have fun,” Campbell said. The Hornets are, after all, still children. Although they’ve matured from performing, Campbell said putting too much pressure on them to win wasn’t in their best interests. Sure, Campbell wanted them to come in first, not just for the team but for the entire Navajo Nation. She simply wanted the girls to do their best. For some girls, this would be their last time performing together; next year, they would be too old for the team and would move on to high school.
At the end of an exhaustive event, the winners were announced. Campbell, team members and their families huddled together. Hearts pounded. Could this be it? When the Hornets were announced as No. 1, Campbell said, “I was ecstatic. We all cried and laughed at the same time. My girls were just fabulous. They worked so hard for this.”
Family members gave a lot of credit to Campbell for the team’s success. Elyse Premo, whose 10-year-old granddaughter, Deidra, is on the team, was in Las Vegas for the competition. “I cried, my family cried, we all cried. It was the greatest. All of us were so happy. We love Sharon and how she supports the girls.”
The Hornets’ success would not be possible without family and community involvement. To earn travel expenses for competitions, almost all of which were held off the reservation, parents pressed neighbors, friends, relatives and coworkers for money. “I knew nothing about fund-raising until I met Sharon,” said Ruth Yazzi, whose 11-year-old daughter is on the team. “I’m totally behind her.”
After the Hornets’ stunning performance at Las Vegas, the team was invited to the World Finals in Hawaii in 2007. Getting there will require considerable financial backing, most of which they will raise on their own. To help the Ganado Hornets reach their dream, donations of $200 or less can be sent to: Ganado Intermediate School, Box 1757, Ganado, AZ 86505.
The Hornets are a small part of the vast, sweeping Navajo Nation in northern Arizona that is sometimes beset by seemingly intractable social problems, such as substance abuse, child maltreatment, housing shortages and teenage gangs. Campbell, the Hornets and their supporters are proof that positive change is possible. An old Dakota saying goes: “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” Campbell has already left tracks worth walking on.