The cheerleading squad at San Fernando High went “old school” for the recent homecoming football game against Canoga Park.
Alumni graduates from 1979 to 2004 broke out their pom-poms, dusted off a few moves, and joined the current squad to support the team and entertain fans on Friday, Oct. 23.
But the participants gave the students more than a few “rah-rah-rahs.” They also donated money to help reduce student costs for cheerleading.
Dyann Dominguez, from the Class of 1988, was part of a committee that wanted to help out financially, and also revive what it felt was a dwindling sense of school spirit.
“I sit on the alumni association board for San Fernando High,” said Dominguez cheerleader and also wore the Tiger mascot outfit. “I believe kids should get opportunities and money should not stand in their way. I have group of nice friends and we wanted to do a fundraiser. We had great experiences in cheerleading, the band, and drill teams. We thought it would be nice to give back in that way.”
Dominguez also got the word out through social media to see who might be interested. She asked each participant to donate $30, of which $7 went to the school general fund, $8.88 went toward the purchase of T-shirts for the game, and the remainder into a fund for cheerleaders.
Responses came from as far away as Big Bear, Culver City, Palmdale and San Diego, as well as locally. Dominguez got nearly 25 women to agree to practice then perform at the game. A couple of other respondents didn’t want to appear at the game but still donated money.
Lillianna Jauregui, 53, who runs a Zumba dance studio in San Fernando, said she was happy to take part. “My classmates from 1979 and 1980, kept saying we should do this for the girls. It was a good cause, and we wanted to bring school spirit back.”
Another former San Fernando High cheerleader, Tina Orduno Calderon, 53, of Pacoima, added that “every year they invite alumni back, and normally the participants have not been out of school too long. But this year participation was down, and someone suggested our gathering as a fundraiser.”
Some of the women began practicing routines and dance steps at the Mission City Church in San Fernando on Sept. 26. Others joined them about a week before the game. After overcoming some early muscle soreness, the movements and routines the women had done in in the 1980s and 1990s began to come back and feel natural again.
“After four-five times, we got it right,” Jauregui said. “We were all shocked and surprised we remembered our cheers from 25 years ago.
“When we first started I reminded everyone it was for fun. It’s gonna be okay. If you mess up it’s okay. Let’s go entertain the crowd. Even when we were younger we made mistakes. But we wanted to show the [current cheerleaders] how to keep things going.”
The women also rehearsed some of the choreography the 2015 cheerleaders do to the popular song “Uptown Funk,” which both groups would perform together at the game. All in all, they prepared nine cheers and two dance routines.
On Friday, dressed in black yoga pants and black T-shirts that read “Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger: SFH Alumni Spirit Team,” 22 alumni women took to the field with the 2015 cheerleaders to dance and entertain. And the response from the crowd was one of embrace.
“We got so much wonderful feedback,” Calderon said. “I heard people saying ‘you guys still got it’ and that we had so much and energy.”
But then the unexpected happened: a power outage occurred in the stadium just before the halftime activities began. Although the students managed to crown a homecoming king and queen, the completion of the game was postponed until Monday, Oct. 26.
Dominguez was unsure if any of the alumni cheerleaders could return on Monday — or even if they would be invited back. The school officials were enthusiastic about the women returning. And 16 of the 22 performers were back there on Monday night.
Unfortunately for the Tigers and their fans, Canoga Park wound up winning the game, 15-14. But the debut of the alumni cheerleading was a success — so much so that Dominguez wants to make it an annual part of San Fernando’s homecoming game.
It would continue to be a fundraiser for the school cheerleaders. Dominguez estimates more than $300 was donated this time, but some funds were still being accounted for.
“You have to keep the pride up,” Dominguez said. “We wanted to bring spirit back to the school. There is a great history for the high school. If you have pride in where you belong, you do better in school.”
Jauregui agreed. “After all is said and done, we realized we have to come back. And we have to encourage more [graduating classes] to come in.”
Calderon said she would be happy to do it again, but added she would work on her conditioning sooner.
“I can’t lie, my knees were feeling it [the next day],” she said.