(ST. JOSEPH) Fourteen-year-old Aliyah Hall, an eighth grader at Truman Middle School, enjoys staying active, like many teenagers, with things like swimming and basketball.
Also like many children, she was born with Down sydnrome.
"I really can't explain it to you, but it was something that I just knew," Aliyah's mother, Laurie Hall, said. "After she was born, it was more of a confirmation for me."
An avid dancer as well, Aliyah quickly took a shine to the Truman cheer squad when she got to middle school and wanted to be a part of it. It was something Laurie wasn't sure about at first, given that Truman had never had a special needs cheerleader before.
"I shared my concerns because not everyone deals with special needs children the same way. They were awesome. They really embraced her," she said.
"(Her teammates) really want her to be a part of it," Truman Cheer Coach Samantha Mott said. "They're always pulling her into the squad, making her feel she's a part of the squad because she is a part of the squad one hundred percent."
Aliyah now takes center stage in her second year as a cheerleader, bringing an infectious smile and enthusiasm to games that quickly caught on with fans.
"It's unbelievable. I have people come up to me that I don't even know come up to me and stop me and say, 'I just love to come to the games and watch Aliyah,'" Laurie said.
"When you see her, you always see her smile," Mott added. "You know she has a true joy and true passion for cheerleading. I'm grateful she knows she can be a part of it."
As she gets ready to become a freshman at Central High School next year, there's no telling yet what the future holds for her as a cheerleader. But whatever she decides to take up next, there's no doubt she'll keep wearing that smile and bringing one to the face of those around her.
"You could spend five minutes with her and be having the worst day and come out with a smile," Laurie said. "They tell you everything, that your daughter has Down syndrome and it's going to be difficult this way and this way, but she's amazing."
"She's a blessing and I wouldn't have her any other way," said Laurie.
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