Harris finds passion for giving back and cheerleading

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 at 1:23 PM
Harris finds passion for giving back and cheerleading by Nate Steis
Shelby Harris is seen in the 2021 Homecoming Parade with the Edinboro Cheer Squad. Contributed Photo.

EDINBORO - For Edinboro University junior Shelby Harris, giving back has always been something important.

A native of McKeesport, Pennsylvania and a 2019 graduate of McKeesport High, Harris has been a cheerleader for nearly all of her life — since the age of three years old. Through cheer, she met some of her lifelong friends, stayed physically fit, and discovered her passion for helping others.

“Through Hot Shot Cheer, I always volunteered for the special needs team growing up,” Harris said. “Being with them, I feel like they helped teach me so many life lessons. They taught me how to be more patient, grateful, and to celebrate the progress that is being made. The pride and joy they have for their progress makes me genuinely happy.”

It makes sense for Harris to pursue a career in which she helps others; at Edinboro, she is currently in her fifth semester as a nursing major. Currently, she is having some of her first clinical nursing experiences at UPMC Hamot, but Harris is no stranger to the healthcare industry.

In fact, she is certified as a PCT (patient care technician), and has worked for the UPMC East in Monroeville on the medical-surgical (med-surg) and intensive-care units (ICU) during her time as a PCT. Her work as a PCT has been the industry experience she needed as her clinical experiences have been altered and pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From this experience, as well as her current clinical experiences at UPMC Hamot, she’s fairly certain a career as a nurse in med-surg or the ICU will be a great fit for her career.

While nursing will be her full-time career, she is hopeful to continue coaching cheerleading for many years to come. Because of COVID-19, the Edinboro cheerleading team did not have a competitive or game day cheerleading squad for the 2020-21 school year. This resulted in a decrease of cheerleaders due to many graduating and others deciding to pursue other ventures. However, Harris’s passion for the sport never wavered, and she has done her part to keep those who are still interested and passionate about the sport at Edinboro together.

“It kind of stung to miss that year because we did not all get to form that connection like we would have if we were in person,” she said. “We also went through a period of not having a coach last school year. There were only five of us who returned to Edinboro cheer after COVID-19.”

These challenges and barriers did not stop the Fighting Scots from recruiting several new teammates to the program, and the team is still recruiting new members for the winter sports season. The addition of Delaynee Wilcox as the Edinboro cheerleading coach has also been a positive move for the program as she has invested the time into the team to help with game day preparations and some potential competitions in the future.

Though Harris’s primary sport is cheerleading, competitive lifting is another sport she is passionate about. In the past, she has competed in a few competitions in Pennsylvania and Ohio with the hope to compete again someday down the road.

“My conditioning coach for high school cheerleading (Kimberly Ransom) got me into training because she is also a USA Weightlifting coach,” Harris said. “She put a lot of time into helping me get better and really helped teach me about the mental side of lifting and sports. I appreciate how much she pushed me and how she always reminded me to make the most of bad days and situations.”

Harris also was quick to mention her parents Malvene and Ron Harris for all the sacrifices and ways they have helped her and her brother R.J. both in and out of athletics. Finally, there is Danielle List, one of her high school cheerleading teammates and also a former cheerleader Harris coached for the Hot Shot Adaptive Cheer All-Star team.

When talking about List, Harris said, “I love being around her and her family. She helped me to get involved with the Special Olympics, which was always a fun time. I am glad I could help her be a part of our game day cheerleading team my junior and senior year of high school.”

To date, her favorite memory from her own cheerleading career is competing at the ESPN Resort and making it to the finals for the large senior division. This included the chance to compete on television and on one of the ESPN-owned baseball fields at night with an enormous collection of spectators watching.

There is plenty to admire about Harris as she is preparing for a career, helping care for others, giving back to her community, and working hard to continue to be the best athlete she can be. Cheerleading may be her number one sport, but serving and caring for others is her primary focus in life.

Nate Steis, Graduate Assistant and Sports Editor | @EdinboroNow

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