Cheerleading is not just a sport, but a way of life, according to Gigi Grant. She is the co-founder and co-owner of a new all-star cheerleading gym, Sapphire Elite Cheer Academy in Bakersfield.
"We aspire to create dedicated, trained, and balanced athletes," said Grant.
Yes, she's referring to cheerleaders as athletes.
Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that made cheerleading an official high school sport.
Grant hopes to break stereotypes.
"People think cheerleading is wearing cute little uniforms, throwing around pom-poms...that's not the case. This is a sport. Athletes lift weights, cheerleaders lift athletes," said Grant.
Grant has spirit, and her energy is contagious. But she also comes with a surprising back story that's became her inspiration.
"I came from a very poor family in Delano, California, where my Mom worked in the fields for hours really hard. She used to always tell me please, get educated, get a good job, work hard, follow your dreams, so you don't have to be like me to work hard in the fields."
Her mother's words stuck with Grant.
Sadly, shortly after she began cheerleading, Grant lost her mother at just 15-years-old.
"What helped me were my cheerleader friends. They were there for me. They were like a family, you know? When I was hurting, they were hurting," Grant said.
By her side is her husband, Jason Grant, who is also co-owner and co-founder.
The Grants are also parents to 5 children, and Jason says he's seen his daughters become more social through the sport.
Jason also says the gym will also offer classes to special needs children.
"The special needs program is here to develop a connection within the community, and give the special needs children the chance to participate in a sport," Jason explained.
Sapphire Elite Cheer Academy wants to include children, despite their financial situations. They understand the job losses, especially in the oil field.
"Here at Sapphire, we're offering a discount to those families that work in the oil field, or those that are struggling. We do offer a discounted rate so that their children don't have to suffer, they can still enjoy what they're doing," said Gigi.
Gigi also adds, "I truly believe since cheerleading changed my life, I know it'll change a lot of other athletes' lives."
Sapphire Cheer Elite Academy will host a grand opening on Saturday, February 6 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
The cheer academy can be found at:
1702 Art St, Bakersfield, CA 93312