Sumter's Next Generation, presented by CCTC: Lakewood's Dais, Sumter's Witherspoon break barriers in cheerleading to encourage next generation


In a world where breaking barriers can be daunting, high school seniors Quinton Dais and Tyreke Witherspoon are rewriting the narrative.

From outsiders to trailblazers in the local world of cheerleading, these two high school seniors strive to be a beacon of hope to little girls and boys who see themselves in spaces they don't often occupy.

But it didn't start out that way.

For Quinton, a Sumter native and Lakewood cheerleading captain, his love for cheerleading started when he was a youngin' in the stands at basketball games. Watching as the cheerleaders a generation before him worked the crowd, he knew he could do it, too, if not better. Initially met with resistance from family, he persisted and tried out for the team his senior year - the rest was history.

Sumter High's Tyreke came from the same humble beginnings. Having lived in Kansas and various counties throughout South Carolina, he discovered his passion for cheerleading during his middle-school years but hesitated to pursue it out of fear of judgment. But his one step out on faith led to him turning flips underneath those Friday night lights.

Being the only boys on their cheer teams brought its own set of challenges. The nervousness, fear of scrutiny and pressure of stereotypes of male cheerleaders were not lost on the two. But as hefty of a load as it was to carry, it fueled their desire to challenge societal norms.

"I feel like it's important to be like a first of everything," Quinton expressed. "Making change around the world -- for us, it's cheer. So, maybe, there are some younger boys that come to the games, and they want to cheer but their families don't think that's the best thing. But with them seeing us, they may want to cheer even more."

The entire journey of being male cheerleaders has been filled with ups and downs. The judgmental comments made by his peers about being on the cheerleading team were eye-opening moments for him.

"It kind of hit home a little bit because growing up, being a male cheerleader wasn't something that was shined upon by my family, but I just let it go and let it be," Tyreke shared.

But the more comfortable they became in the sport, the easier it became to brush off the comments made by naysayers. Persevering through those hard times showed them the depths of their strength and the ability to do great things despite the odds stacked against them. The pair didn't forget to thank their teammates and coaches for instilling confidence in them when it was hard to find within themselves.

But, as they hang up their sneakers and pass on their pom poms, they hope their breaking of barriers inspires a breakthrough in the next generation of cheerleaders.

"Do everything you [set] your mind to. Don't be limited to things that you do in school. Don't just sign up for one club; be involved in literally everything, and that's like the best way to get through high school," Quinton encouraged.

"Just go for it. You'll never know if that might be something you find your passion in," Tyreke said.

Get to know: Quinton and Tyreke - Lakewood High School and Sumter High School Class of 2024

- Both are involved in Student Government Association

- Quinton is a member of Lakewood Gospel Choir, FCCLA, Lakewood track team, Gear Up ambassadors and Nu Alpha Theta high school mathematics honor society

- Tyreke is a Gear Up ambassador and a member of the Sumter High varsity tennis team