Squad cheers for 'Nightline' segment

Of all the high school cheerleading teams in the state, Costa Mesa High School’s cheerleaders have been selected by ABC News’ “Nightline” as the subject of an upcoming segment on their academic and athletic success, as well as community volunteer efforts. Reporter Lisa Ling will be conducting the interview.

Nightline will be filming the team’s practice session before tonight’s first-round CIF football playoff game between Costa Mesa High and Garden Grove’s Santiago High schools. A Nightline crew also will be filming the cheerleaders during the game and during a Saturday performance at UC Irvine.

The team was selected when Nightline called the Golden State Spirit Assn., and asked Tammy Van Vleet, the organization’s executive director, to recommend a cheer team in California.

Van Vleet selected Costa Mesa as one of four teams. That’s when Nightline called Kori Johnson, Costa Mesa’s cheer coach.

“Kori Johnson has been nominated Coach of the Year and her program exemplifies the good of high school cheerleading, not only in their school, but also in their community,” Van Vleet said.

The squad, which is made up of 36 freshman to senior students, serves as a model in its school and community, thanks to Johnson’s leadership and the 20-page set of guidelines where she lays down her rules and expectations for the team.

The squad’s role is not just to cheer their high school sports team during games or compete to win awards, which included landing first place at Sharp International, a cheerleading competition organization.

The squad’s job is also to serve their community — by volunteering wherever there’s a chance, from toy drives to breast cancer awareness events — and represent their school and community in the best light.

“There’s not an event out there that we don’t do,” Johnson said. “We take center stage when we perform, but we also go behind the scenes and volunteer.”

Tom Hatch, Costa Mesa assistant city manager, whose daughter, Courtney, is a squad member, said he can’t think of any other small group in town that is as dedicated to serving its community.

“It makes sense,” Hatch said of Nightline’s decision to profile the Costa Mesa cheer team. “They are a fantastic unit that is doing unbelievable things and their level of leadership and community service is very impressive.

“The success of the team has made it more and more competitive to get on the team, and it’s drawing kids that are very excited and want to compete to get on the team.”

Ling will interview some of the girls, Johnson and Edward Wong, the school’s principal, Johnson said.

“We’re so thrilled and it’s such an honor that Tammy would think of our program,” she said. “It speaks volumes that the director of the state association, out of all the schools in California, thought of us.”

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