Balancing schoolwork and a part-time job is not unusual for college students, but some individuals take the balancing act one step further.
Four CSU students are not only undertaking nearly full class schedules, but also working a job that involves countless hours of physical work, travel and most importantly, spirit.
Why would they subject themselves to such conditions? Because they are responsible for the spirit that is the Denver Broncos' Cheerleaders.
Senior Tiler Wilkerson , and sophomores Kelsey Vernon , Stephanie Ellsworth and Erica Weston split their allegiances every week, between the Rams and the Broncos, a task that requires immeasurable amounts of hard work and dedication.
"You have to grow up pretty quickly to be able to balance everything," said Vernon, a business administration and marketing major, who is in her second year as a Broncos Cheerleader. "It really serves to make us stronger students and more well rounded because we have to balance everything."
In addition to team practices every Tuesday and Thursday night – practices that require the four women to leave CSU at 4 p.m. and not return to Fort Collins until midnight – the cheerleaders must practice new routines on their own almost every week.
"You have to do a lot of the work on your own time," said Ellsworth, an open option major in her rookie season as a Bronco. "You are expected to know the material when you come to practice so we can all run through it together."
Along with the effort required for their performances, the ladies also have responsibilities outside of the stadium. Last year, the Broncos Cheerleaders donated nearly 1,100 hours to a variety of community service organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club and the Race for the Cure cancer charity, Vernon said.
"There are certain minimum requirements for charity work, but it's mostly a choice to volunteer," Vernon said. "All the girls easily beat the requirements for the charity work. It is really the best experience; we get to meet the most amazing people."
All four of the women agreed that the charity work is the most rewarding part of their job representing the Broncos' organization.
"It's a situation that everyone benefits from," Ellsworth said. "Sometimes I feel like I get more out of the charity work than those I am volunteering to help."
Class work can at times be the last thing on their minds, yet the women must find ways to be a student along with a professional cheerleader.
"My first year, I got really overwhelmed by the whole thing," said Wilkerson, an apparel and merchandising major in her second year with the Broncos. "Now I have gotten used to the demands on my schedule, and have learned how to balance everything, cheering and school together."
On top of the weekly balance of work and school, there is one day a week completely reserved for Bronco's responsibilities: game day. Cheerleaders must arrive four to five hours before the game to make preparations that include a pre-game rehearsal through the days dance routines, along with required game day promotions that send the ladies throughout the stadium as fans begin to arrive for the game.
Add in a pre-game meal and chapel, and the cheerleaders barely have enough time to get ready for the game, a process that requires a routine of makeup and hair styling similar to Prom night. Once the cheerleaders exit the locker room, they are on stage, an exhilarating and nerve-racking feeling, Weston said.
"It is an out of body experience," said Weston, a speech communications major in her rookie season. "We go out, and we use the energy of the crowd in the stands to perform. When I am done, I can hardly remember any of the dancing."
Wilkerson said that getting over stage fright is one of the pluses of cheering in front of a crowd of 75,000 people.
"The key is to focus on one person, and make eye contact with them," Wilkerson said. "It's more personal, and it's great to connect with someone."
After the game, the cheerleaders change out of their uniforms and then head outside to meet and greet fans. The ladies stay to sign autographs and talk with those they perform for.
"We love to stay after the game and talk with everyone," Vernon said. "The fans are what we are there for, and we love meeting them."