Cheer squad: Autistic teammate gives it her all

GLIDE, Ore. -- Last week, the Glide Wildcats had their first home game of the season. At that game, there was one cheerleader who was cheering for a lot more than football.

Kendra Pettengill's daughter Keely is on the cheer leading team, but there was a time when she wasn't sure it was best for her daughter. "I was thinking this was the last thing she needs, is to be on a cheer squad," Kendra said.

But, Keely made the varsity cheer squad for her sophomore year.

She's not like most cheerleaders: she's autistic.

Shelby Mehlhoff, a Glide senior, talked about Keely's work ethic. "She comes out and gives it her all everyday," she said.

Sidney Fucciolo, a junior, agrees. "She's came a long way. You can tell she's matured and growing into a woman and getting out of that girl stage," she said.

Keely isn't just making progress on the squad. Her mom says she's also doing well in the classroom.

As of the end of last school year, she has been pushed out of her special education classes into regular courses. "At one point, one specialist said she'd probably end up in an institution," Kendra said. "I laugh and say, 'Yeah, she might: College.'"

High school can be rough for some, but Kendra gives credit to Glide High's nurturing staff, and to some not-so-mean-girls on Keely's cheer squad. "I think they push her to be a better person," Kendra said.

But more importantly, the main success lies with Keely herself. "It's very impressing to me that I have autism and I think it's really, really amazing for someone who has autism to do the best they can," Keely said. "I think it's impressive."

As for her partners on the cheer squad, they are pretty impressed with Keely too.