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Little Leaders: Kennedy High teacher inspires cheer team to build trust, sisterhood

on October 23, 2014

At this month’s annual Kennedy – Richmond football game, the cheerleaders had as many supporters in the stands as the football players, and they love the spotlight.

“Oh my god, she’s taking pictures of us!” shouted one of the cheerleaders that Friday night. Another one added, “don’t just take pictures of her, make sure you get all of us!”

Kennedy’s cheer team consists of fifteen girls, eleven on varsity and four on junior varsity. One of the team’s biggest goals for this year is to increase recruitment.

“I’m hoping for more people to join the team, and I’m hoping for us to conquer more stuff as we go through the year,” said Azaria Kates, a freshman JV cheerleader at Kennedy.

Kenitra Mitchell, a first-year biology teacher, coaches both the Junior Varsity and Varsity cheerleading teams at Kennedy.

Being a cheerleading coach is a large commitment – in addition to weekly football games, the girls practice for two hours everyday after school. Ms. Mitchell agreed to take on the position when she was asked to by Kennedy’s principal, Phillip Johnson.

Raised in Richmond, Ms. Mitchell has a deep understanding of what her cheerleaders are going through – she was once a varsity cheerleader at neighboring De Anza High School. “It’s good for them to have a relationship with a teacher outside of the classroom setting,” said Ms. Mitchell.

Ms. Mitchell’s main goal for this year is to develop trust and sisterhood between the girls and establish them as leaders for other Kennedy High students to look to.

Currently, the girls are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA, but Ms. Mitchell expects them to sustain at least a 2.5 GPA.

Although the cheerleading team will not perform competitively this year, Ms. Mitchell hopes they’ll be able to do so next year.

Little Leaders is a Richmond Confidential series highlighting the students, community members, and organizations that are developing Richmond’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders. Send story ideas to our reporter Zainab Khan at

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