Earlier this month, Pennye Garcia had just started as the cheerleading coach at Hudson High.
"I was brand new and had only three weeks to prepare these girls for the first football game," Garcia said.
Fortunately, senior Chelsea Hatcher, 17, came to her rescue.
"Chelsea has been my right arm in communicating with teammates and orienting me to the school and locations of things," Garcia said. "Chelsea's leadership during practice helps me to take care of the paperwork and setup involved at the beginning of practice. I just say, 'Chelsea, get everyone started on chants, then go to jumps.' She responds by leading the team to the mats and beginning the practice."
Hatcher's leadership, combined with her skills as the team's flyer, qualified her to be one of 100 high-school cheerleaders nationwide to be invited to the prestigious CheerHawaii USA Summer Invitational Camp.
"We learned advanced techniques from college coaches that I will share with my team," Hatcher said. "We also learned about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and pushing yourself to do your best."
A two time All-America selection by the National Cheerleading Association, Hatcher is the Cobras' team captain.
"Cheerleading is exciting, because I like being in a team atmosphere," she said. "As the captain, I enjoy helping the younger girls. As a flyer, I'm counting on four teammates to catch me," she said with a smile.
To sharpen her skills, Hatcher receives private tumbling lessons on weekends. On Thursday nights, she takes additional cheerleading lessons at BAAM Athletics.
A high honors student with a 3.8 grade-point average, Hatcher also excels in the classroom. Her current workload includes Advanced Placement classes in English literature and microeconomics. She also takes an honors physics class and is a member of the student council.
Each year, she helps build the school's homecoming float. "We go to local businesses and ask them to donate the supplies needed for the float, such as wood and paint," she said.
Hatcher is the sports editor of The Charmer, the school's monthly newspaper. Supervising up to five reporters, she edits stories and designs the pages of the sports section.
"She not only strives for perfection in all her work, she inspires her peers to do the same," said language arts/journalism instructor Robert Hundley. "She has been instrumental in leading The Charmer to winning (Florida Scholastic Press Association's) bronze award and page awards at district conferences.
"Additionally, Chelsea is very civic minded. During (last year's) presidential race, she attended several rallies and assisted in the distribution of campaign literature. She asked me to help her start a Young Republican Club at school. She did the research and wrote the Constitution and bylaws for the club, which were approved by the administration and our SACS committee."
"Our goal is to get students more involved in politics, since who we elect can have a major impact on our lives," Hatcher said.
In support of Relay For Life, she and her classmates bought and delivered 50 toys at Christmas for elementary students whose parents were struggling financially.
"It's important for every child to wake up on Christmas and have a gift under the tree," she said. "It's a good feeling to know we made a difference in a child's life."
She coaches cheerleading for 6- to 8-year-olds at the Police Athletic League.
"I'm proud to have Chelsea as part of our youth organization," said director Keith Morris. "To come out each and every night to help coach our girls just shows what a person Chelsea is. She is truly a wonderful asset to our league and our community."
Hudson High's Environmental Education Resource teacher Mark Butler agrees.
"She is a very competent and caring young woman," said Butler, who has taught Hatcher for three years. "It is no surprise that she is being featured and that she will be very successful in life. I started with high expectations for her, and she certainly has not let me down."