Date: Jan. 28, 2002
Combining Spirit, Scholarship
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Cheerleading and engineering are both very demanding pursuits. Put the two together and you've got Shadaia Gooden, a UC senior.
It's a combination that many people don't expect to find in one person. Bearcat cheerleaders face a grueling schedule, with a minimum of 16 hours of practice on weekdays, not to mention games, clinics, competitions and special appearances. Engineering, one of the most competitive majors at UC, can be even more rigorous, with rotating co-op jobs and challenging academics. Yet for years, Gooden combined both, at the same time that she maintained a full-tuition scholarship through UC's Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program.
This year, however, in her fifth and senior year as a co-op student in electrical engineering, Gooden decided to retire from cheerleading and concentrate on studies and other activities. It's a breather she welcomes, although she misses the camaraderie of the cheerleading squad and great trips to tournaments in places like Hawaii.
"I enjoyed the travel, the sports. I love football and basketball and supporting the teams. I enjoyed the friendships I made. I also really liked the performing aspect," she said.
Taking a break has had some real benefits for her. Last month, for the first time since her senior year of high school at Ursuline in Youngstown, Ohio, she got to spend a lengthy winter break with family for the holidays, rather than the two- or three-day hiatus to which cheerleading limited her.
"Usually, there has been a basketball game or like last year, the Motor City Bowl, the day after Christmas that I had to go to," she said. This year, "it was great being able to spend time with the family" - her dad and sister. "It was relaxing."
But she still went to the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 29. "I miss cheerleading. Spending so much of your time with the same people, especially in such close proximity - 12 people piling into one van to go to a game - you get to be very close and then suddenly they are not around anymore."
Now almost half way through her final year as an undergraduate, Gooden is looking forward to a debt-free graduation in June 2002. Both her Turner Scholarship and co-operative education have made that possible. The scholarship has been a significant financial help to her family. "The Darwin Turner Program is very close to my heart. It has not only eliminated the financial stresses of receiving a college education, but it has also provided me with many great friendships and other enrichment opportunities," she said.
Co-op also helped out financially, providing her a salary on assignments at IBM in Cincinnati, Mead Paper in Dayton and Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. "Being able to graduate debt-free is a great feeling, especially since I am planning to attend law school."
In addition to the financial assistance of the scholarship, the Turner program has "provided a strong support system," said Gooden. "LaShanta Jones, Dr. Abercrumbie and Mrs. Abercrumbie, and Bleuzette Marshall create a powerful network of individuals, all with our best interest at heart." Just a few days ago, Gooden called Claudia Abercrumbie, development director for the program and mentor, for advice on a job offer.
The Turner Program also requires monthly attendance at skills-building sessions on topics ranging from study skills, time management and resume writing to cultural diversity, current events and other life issues. The seminars are filled with practical advice, Gooden said.
In addition to her studies and the Turner program, Gooden's senior year has been filled with days and nights of other activities. Currently, she serves as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and vice president of CWEST, a women's honorary society. Other activities include vice president of the Order of Omega, another honorary society, and membership in Omicron Delta Kappa, Sigmi Phi, National Society of Black Engineers, Emerging Ethnic Engineers and other organizations.
The year off from cheerleading has proven to be busier than she expected. "I thought I'd have all this free time, but I don't really, because I'm more involved in other activities - although it is more relaxed this year. With cheerleading, I had no choice about whether to show up for practice or a game. At least now I have a little bit more flexibility with my activities. My schedule is not quite as demanding."
"I can't say I regret my choice to give up cheerleading," she adds. "But I can honestly say how much I miss it."
If she or anybody else ever misses her cheerleading days too much, they don't have long to wait to catch her in the act again. She is among the Bearcat cheerleaders who performed in the Cincinnati Pops Thanksgiving special that has been aired annually on PBS stations in recent years.
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