‘A big honor:’ Central Texas cheerleader to perform in annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii

Performance made possible with help from community and Fort Hood Veterans
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 11:42 AM CST
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JONESBORO, Texas (KWTX) - With the help of her community and Veterans who work at Fort Hood, a Central Texas cheerleader will be performing at the annual Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii today to honor those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor 81 years ago.

“I find it as a big honor because we’re there celebrating those who fought for us,” Jonesboro High School senior cheerleader, Emma-Cookie Rodriguez, said. “That’s really meaningful. Not just to me, but to everybody.”

Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) awarded Rodriguez the All-American Cheerleader Award during the Varsity Cheer Camp.

“I tried out at cheer camp,” she said. “The feeling when they called my name at the end of the day, I was in complete and total shock.”

Rodriguez competed against cheerleaders from 15 other schools. Judges ranked competitors dedication, hard work, discipline and skills. They learned and performed a dance and did different jumps, naming Rodriguez as the All-American Cheerleader.

By winning the title, she also won an opportunity to perform at one of three parades that Varsity attends around the world, and one reason she chose the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii is to honor her mom’s coworkers who are Veterans at Fort Hood.

“I work at Fort Hood, and I’m honored to work where I work because I work with a lot of military Veterans, some of the kindest, great people, wonderful people that sacrifice their life for us, and going to the parade is just a little bit I could do to honor them,” Rodriguez’s mom, Cecilia Rodriguez said.

However, travel and hotel stay expenses were not included in the opportunity. That did not hold back Cecilia from making sure her daughter was able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“We were going to get her there no matter what it took,” she said. That’s where we got this little jar of hot sauce.”

The little jar of hot sauce, homemade using Emma’s great grandmother’s recipe, got the Jonesboro senior big support. They said Jonesboro, surrounding communities and her mom’s coworkers at Fort Hood cheered Rodriguez on by showing up to support her fundraisers.

She said her Fort Hood coworkers had a personal connection to the experience as they wanted Emma to be able to perform in the parade to honor Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day for them.

“Everybody jumped in,” Cecilia said. “We were not alone at all, and the people at Fort Hood, everybody was placing orders. I’d get home from work, go straight to the kitchen, and all night long making hot sauce.”

She said money from the fundraiser was enough for not only Emma but for her and Emma’s sister-in-law to be able to experience the opportunity with her.

As a sign of gratitude and appreciation, Cecilia and her daughter-in-law will be wearing shirts with her coworkers’ names who served in the military.

“By doing this, you find out who’s in your boat,” Cecilia said. “We got a lot of people. We need a big boat for everybody on our team. We could not ask for anything extra.”

Emma said she is one of 750 All-American Cheerleaders nationwide; therefore, she will be performing at the parade with several other cheerleaders uniting together from all parts of the nation.

As a cheerleader from a small city in Central Texas, she said she is grateful to represent her school.

“We’re a small school, and so this opportunity does not just represent myself, but my school,” Emma said. “It’s a big honor for me.”

Emma, who also competes in softball, track, basketball and powerlifting, said she could not have done this without the support from her coaches, principal and superintendent.

“I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity and giving me all these great people that surround me,” she said.

Her cheer coach, Kayla Sellers, said this experience is a great representation of how Emma’s hard work payed off.

“You have the talks with all your athletes about working hard...and this is one of those things where I never had to do that with Emma, and she’s always really loved to cheer, and she’s always been really talented at it,” Sellers said. “I’m just so excited for her because this is something that she has worked hard at the entire time that she’s done it for me.”

Sellers even made a generous donation to Emma right before she left to help cover the rest of the expenses needed for the trip.

Jonesboro Superintendent and Principal also expressed pride and excitement for their Jonesboro High School student having the opportunity to represent the school 3,000 miles away in Waikiki.