On the Team

Making the cut for the New England Patriots' cheerleading squad is grueling...

Making the cut for the New England Patriots' cheerleading squad is grueling. Stefanie De Santis '00 knows: she was among the 250 young women who competed when the group last held tryouts. Now she is one of the youngest of the 35-woman team.

De Santis had no plans to follow the path most seniors take after graduation--away from extracurricular activities. "Dancing was still in my heart," says the former captain of Harvard's Crimson Dance Team. In college she danced both jazz and ballet, but was attracted to the Dance Team by its members' dedication and the chance it offered to perform on a regular basis. "We danced during half-time at basketball games, and for various singing groups, to raise enough money for our spring breaks in Daytona Beach," she says. "Colleges from around the country compete there in a national dance contest." A tryout last winter with Walt Disney World Productions was her first professional attempt. De Santis made the roster for future Disney events in Boston, but was not about to simply wait for a call. Instead, she says, "I got on the Web and found out that the Patriots were having cheerleading tryouts."

The performing arts are part of her life. "My father was in a band and owned a night club until I was 11," she explains. "He would make breakfast for my younger sister and me and after taking us to school he went to bed. He woke up in time to pick us up and spend time with us before he went to work. Then he sold his club and has been an artist ever since." Her sister is now an aspiring actress. "She's my best friend," De Santis says. "We've always supported each other's decisions."

Ask De Santis about cheering in front of 60,000 screaming fans and she'll tell you, "It's a blast." How does she maintain her schedule, with a full-time job at Harvard, team practices twice a week, and cheering at 10 National Football League games and at promotions and charitable events throughout the year? "It is a combination of things," she says. "My family has given me the freedom to become the person I am today. My four years at Harvard have given me the foundation that allows me to be myself." The ingredient that has brought it all together? "Hard work, hard work, hard work!"

~David S. Hindle

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