ON A MISSIONStudent chooses church over cheerleading

Published 11:13 pm Friday, June 15, 2012

For as long as 14-year-old Mattie Jones can remember, she’s wanted to be a cheerleader, so it came as no surprise to her family and friends when she trained and made the ninth-grade squad at Warren Central High School. It did, however, come as a surprise when she gave up her spot on the team.

Part of being on the squad meant Mattie, the daughter of Sonny and Teresa Jones of Vicksburg, would have to attend a cheer camp during the summer. Unfortunately, the camp fell during the same week as a mission trip Mattie had planned with her church, and she was forced to choose between her spot on the trip and her spot on the sidelines.

“It was a tough decision,” Mattie said. “I love cheer, but I would rather go on the trip because God has a plan and a path for me.”

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So Mattie made the decision to give up her spot on the squad and pack her bags for Honduras for the seven-day trip. While Mattie’s friends practiced stunts and cheers at camp in Hattiesburg, she was busy building a water-treatment facility and hosting art, sewing and sports camps for children in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

“I’m still overwhelmed with the experience and everything I got to see,” said Mattie, who made it back to Vicksburg Thursday night. “I learned so much from it, the experience changed my life for the better.”

“I was so proud of her,” said Mattie’s mother. “She took it like a young lady and didn’t get mad that she couldn’t stay on the team. She learned a lesson from this.”

Mattie, along with 28 others from Hawkins United Methodist, Crawford Street United Methodist and St. Michael Catholic churches, spent the week staffing vacation Bible school for children and building a house for a family of five.

“Leaving those kids was the hardest thing,” Mattie said. “We got so connected to them, they would jump into our arms and were always so happy.”

Though Mattie said she will miss being on the cheerleading squad, she’s glad she went on the trip.

“Both my sisters were cheerleaders, it’s not tradition, but it is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Mattie said. “This trip brought me closer to God though, and that’s better for me.”

Since she won’t be able to cheer in the fall, Mattie said she tried out and made the swim team, and she’ll play softball.

“It’s going to be hard seeing them in those cheer uniforms, but I’m excited about swimming,” Mattie said. “All my friends were supportive of me.”

Katrina Miles, coach for the ninth-grade cheerleaders at Warren Central said the camp was necessary for everyone on the team because “they learn material to use throughout the year.”

“I’m impressed with the way she’s handled this,” Teresa Jones said.

Mattie said she plans to start practicing soon for cheerleading tryouts next year.

“This is a good time for me to be practicing,” Mattie said.