WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- A local cheerleading team is reaching new heights -- making it all the way to nationals in Florida, but they don't have the money to get there to compete.
If you listen closely before and after class, you can hear excellence reverberating down the empty hallways at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School.
The sound is the cheerleading team ... one of the best this nation has to offer.
Two years ago, pre-pandemic, they competed at the national competition in Orlando against high schoolers!
"Sisterhood is a really big part of cheer. We're very close with each other," cheerleading captain Merlina Santana said.
"It's all really about teamwork and trust. Because for example the flier has to trust the base," cheerleader Kaitoyn Clase said.
This sport is their life. This team is their family.
"Sometimes we even practice at home so when we come back to school we can be amazing," cheerleader Rihanna Rodriguez said.
"We're from New York, so when you come from New York you have that fire," coach Tatiana Melani said.
And so, with that fire, they qualified this year again for the national's competition. But right now, they don't have the funding to make the trip this year.
To cover hotel, flights, and registration, they need to raise about $20,000 by early February.
It would be a life-changing experience for these kids. Most of them have never even traveled outside the city.
"I just wouldn't want all of their hard work and their drive and everything that they went through and not like see it through," Melani said. "They're not giving up. Positivity and perseverance is what they know."
And they'll lean on it these next few weeks as they fundraise relentlessly to make their dreams come true.
You can also contribute to their fundraising efforts through the school's website, where they are collecting donations.
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