While on Christmas break school, Louise High students Kaitlyn and Karleigh Surratt spent their time abroad. Invited by Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), the LHS varsity cheerleading sisters flew out of Houston the day after Christmas to join other cheerleaders from across the nation to perform in London’s New Year’s Day parade. While other members of the LHS squad also made the UCA cut for the trip, the Surratts were the only ones who decided to go and went about raising money for their trip last year.
“We are so grateful and want to thank everybody for helping us,” Kaitlyn said. “When we announced we were going, they were all so excited. We would not have made it there without their help.”
“Especially our parents,” added Karleigh.
The girls’ parents, Jimmy and Kim Surratt, organized much of the fundraising efforts and chipped in for the remainder not raised.
Together, they estimate the trip to have cost close to $8,000.
“We got the experience of a lifetime,” Kaitlyn said.
That experience included touring the sites of London, meeting other UCA cheerleaders, mostly from the Houston and Dallas area, and rehearsing for their dance routine performed on the streets of London on Jan. 1.
“My favorite part of the trip was the parade,” Karleigh added. “The little girls looking up to us ... we would walk by and and give them high-fives or just touch their hands.”
“The little girls would reach out to touch your pom poms,” Kaitlyn said. “And they wanted to take pictures of us and with us. They were so excited about it.”
There were around 1,200 UCA cheerleaders to perform New Year’s Day. They were divided into three groups. With close to 250 in their group, they did a dance/pom routine in front of the grandstands of spectators, then “sprinted from one grand stand to another,” Kaitlyn said, while chanting inbetween.
The routine was performed to remix of “Dancing in the Streets,” Karleigh said.
“UCA does a remix of a song. The original song was based off of Dancing in the Streets,” Kaitlyn said.
“It was a really long routine,” Karleigh said. “Two minutes and 40 seconds.”
“Almost triple what we do,” Kaitlyn said, comparing it to their high school routines.
The New Year’s Day parade aired on RFD TV at 6 a.m. in Louise, so the girl’s mom was able to watch and pick them out in the group. Luckily, the girls were in the front row, making it easy for mom to spot.
Both girls were cheerleaders in junior high, and this is Kaitlyn’s fourth and final year as a cheerleader. She will graduate in the spring with plans to attend Wharton County Junior College. Karleigh, a sophomore, is in her second year at LHS as a varsity cheerleader.
Both girls began taking gymnastics at an early age, about four years old. They also perfected their tumbling and stunts as members of the Full Force gym, however were not members of their competitive cheerleading teams. During the summers, they have also attended UCA camps to learn routines and new cheers each year. Over the past six years, Kaitlyn has made UCA All American five years. Also, cheerleaders can try out to be a member of the UCA staff.
Kaitlyn says she will most certainly miss cheering at high school games next year.
“Cheer ... it is the favorite of all my activities. I’ll miss coming up with routines and performing.”
And she will miss the younger students who look up to her.
For Karleigh, she has possibly two more years as varsity cheerleader provided she makes the squad. She looks forward to “Friday nights when everybody’s in the stands,” she said. “My whole family comes.”