Ten-year-old Raychelle Durham said she has always hoped that some day, when she is a little older and a little taller, she will be a Yale cheerleader. The New Haven fifth grader was thrilled when she got the chance to take the field a little sooner than expected.

On Friday, the Yale cheerleaders hosted a clinic for New Haven youth, who then joined the squad on the field Saturday at the Yale-Princeton game.

The afternoon clinic began with the cheerleaders leading the children in stretches. The roles of the blue and white uniformed Yale cheerleaders ranged from making sure that the 3 foot, 2 inch participants did not get lost in the crowd to encouraging the kids to cheer at the top of their lungs. The squad taught the children three chants and a dance, then distributed t-shirts, pom-poms, hair ribbons and pizza.

Megan Lennon ’03 said the team coordinated the event with little support from the athletic department. She said she hopes this work with the community will be the first step toward achieving varsity status.

Co-captain Barbara Yu ’04 said the Yale cheerleading program is currently suffering because of its club sport status, which translates to limited funds. Yu said this weekend was both a fund raiser to increase the squad’s budget, as well as an opportunity to reach out to the New Haven community.

Cat Pitti ’03, who has cheered for Yale for four years, said one of the goals for the weekend was to present cheerleading as a sport.

“Cheerleading is more than jumping around and cheering from the sidelines,” she said. “It requires strength and endurance, flexibility, coordination and poise.”

Co-captain Lauren O’Garro-Moore ’04 said she appreciated the opportunity to bring the children who usually cheer for Yale from the stands onto the field with the cheerleaders themselves.

“We always see these children at the games, waving their signs, or trying to mimic us as we cheer, and we always smile and wave, but there’s limited contact that can happen because of what’s going on,” she said. “I think that this will serve to bring us a few steps closer to the community in general; not just the children, but the parents as well.”

The rain and cold on Saturday did not deter the eager participants from enjoying themselves at the football game and helping to cheer the Bulldogs to victory. The band shouted the cheers along with the children, and the many girls and one boy performed the dances they had learned at the clinic.

“The children were really troopers with the bad weather, and they were determined to show off what they learned, and we were all really proud of them for braving the elements with us,” O’Garro-Moore said.