Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Each year, we come together in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Running from September 15th to October 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture, tradition and contribution of Hispanic and Latin Americans and the heritage rooted in all Latin American countries.

2023 – NCA & NDA Director of Competition Experience

For both school and All Star athletes, competition season is a pivotal part of the year. This year, we are proud to recognize AC Klunder and all she does to make these experiences possible for athletes all over the country, while embracing her Hispanic heritage.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!
AC Klunder
  • Tell us about your role at Varsity Spirit and what you love most about your job. I am the NCA & NDA Director of Competition Experience. I love being able to provide experiences and memories that will last a lifetime to athletes all over the country. Competitions had a large part in shaping me into the woman I am today. So, I hope that with the help of my amazing team, we can provide memorable experiences for these athletes!
  • What is the significance of Hispanic Heritage month to you? Most people have no idea I am Hispanic. But I am a “Cuba-rican” through and through! I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and still have a lot of family on the island! For that reason, this month holds personal significance for me because it provides a dedicated time to celebrate and reflect on the rich and diverse tapestry of Hispanic and Latin cultures. It is a time when I can proudly embrace and share my culture with others. It’s a moment to take pride in my roots, acknowledging the traditions, customs, and values passed down through generations; and it’s a reminder that my heritage is a source of strength and identity.
  • What is a family tradition you wish to pass down, that has been passed down to you? In Hispanic culture, Epiphany or Three Kings Day holds equal importance to Christmas. It’s a significant celebration, especially in Puerto Rico. During my upbringing in Georgia, my mother and father upheld this tradition. The Three Kings would deliver gifts, and we’d have a special family gathering to celebrate the meaning of this day. My friends used to ask me why the Three Kings didn’t bring them presents, and my mother would explain that they only gave gifts to children who spoke Spanish at home. I even remember hosting sleepovers with friends so that the Three Kings would give them gifts too!
  • Tell us about a specific individual or moment in Hispanic History that has influenced your career/life. My Abuelo, Enrique and Abuela, Olga, have influenced me to never give up. Although they have passed on, they continue to inspire me. Born and raised in Cuba, they made the tough decision to leave what was familiar and comfortable. They decided it was best for their entire family, including my mother and her 2 siblings to seek refuge in the United States. They left the island with nothing but the clothes on their backs and ended up in Puerto Rico. My grandparents worked to provide a stable and comfortable life for their children. They did not give up; they were able to provide for their families and the generations to follow.
  • What are some ways individuals could recognize Hispanic Heritage Month? Exploring the cuisine of various Hispanic cultures, including my favorites of course, Puerto Rican and Cuban dishes! There’s a common misconception that all Hispanics share the same culture, often based on exposure to Mexican culture. People frequently approach me with comments like, “I love tacos!” While I share an appreciation for tacos, it’s essential to recognize that not all Hispanics eat tacos or wear Mexican hats. Sampling a range of foods like paella, empanadas, black beans, ceviche, and more can be a delightful experience!
  • Please share a fun fact about yourself! AC is not my legal name; I was given it as a nickname in the 2nd grade! My legal name is Ana Cristina. Also, my husband is half Filipino!

2022 – V!ROC Choreographer Highlight

This year, Varsity Spirit is excited to recognize a V!ROC Choreographer who continues to make a difference in the lives of  athletes and coaches, while embracing their Hispanic heritage.

Austin Robles
  • Tell us about your role within your department and what you love most about your job. I am a V!ROC Choreographer. I love that this job allows me to travel to schools and universities creating unique and customized cheerleading routines for clients.
  • What is the significance of Hispanic Heritage month to you? I think it’s important for everyone to take time to observe and experience Hispanic Heritage month. Gaining understanding of different cultures characteristics allows individuals to appreciate his/her follow human being. During this month long window, we can grow closer as human beings.
  • What is a family tradition you wish to pass down, that has been passed down to you? Every year my family takes time to reflect, acknowledge, and discuss what our family has accomplished in life, challenges they had to overcome, and how WE can continue this progress within our families. This usually happens over a holiday meal. I will keep the memory and discussions alive. My Hispanic family is EXTREMELY affectionate 🤗. We hug, we kiss on cheeks, we use terms of endearment in daily conversations. I love how HARD my Hispanic family loves each other.
  • Tell us about a specific individual or moment in Hispanic History that has influenced your career/life. I am inspired by Gonzalo Robles.  Gonzalo, my father, currently lives in Wichita Falls, TX and developed a program to help Hispanic students develop a road to college.  This program Café on Leche has fostered an environment that aids families in finding scholarship opportunities and resources to help students who previous might not be able to pursue higher education.  Gonzalo has been instrumental in securing funding, grants, scholarships, and after school program that continue to elevate the Hispanic community.  Gonzalo came to the United States from Honduras in his 20’s.  Gonzalo became an American citizen and served in the United States Army.  While in his military service Gonzalo fought in Desert Storm.  He would return from Desert Storm to earn both his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in psychology. Learning about his journey to a “foreign country,” his achievements, and how he continues to give back to the Hispanic community will always be a source of inspiration.
  • What are some ways individuals could recognize Hispanic Heritage Month? Find a short movie, Google an author, eat at a local Hispanic restaurant, and/or just immerse him/herself in the culture for a short period of time. Through the chosen experience observe the cultural tendencies, body language used, communication style between other Hispanic individuals, and ASK questions. I believe humans learn BEST when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
  • Please share a fun fact about yourself. I am a HUGE foodie and workout enthusiast. I have two yorkies named Mr. Spirit & Ms. Faith.

2021 – Coach Highlight

Varsity Spirit is proud to shine a spotlight on Melissa Lescano, current coach at El Rancho High School who embraces her heritage while enhancing the student experience of her athletes.

Melissa Lescano

Melissa first began her journey in cheerleading alongside her best friend Valerie in high school. They both made their high school cheer team and continued on to cheer in college. The dynamic duo is now coaching together at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, California.

A strong sense of family and community is extremely important to Melissa, which is why coaching at El Rancho is so special. Pico Rivera is the city where her grandparents made their home and raised their family.

“This community is an important part of my family history, and it is incredible to have the opportunity to coach and serve the students at El Rancho High School in that same city. Being raised by a strong Mexican woman, my mother has shown me that women can do anything. I carry that with me always.”

Melissa’s family has always been supportive in her coaching journey and understand coaching is her passion. Watching her mom and seeing how dedicated she was to volunteering and participating in different programs inspired Melissa to do the same in her coaching career.

As a coach, Melissa pours her passion into building a program for her athletes and showing them what is possible and how they can accomplish anything when they work together. She loves getting to put together the puzzle that is a cheer routine by piecing together each individual’s strengths.

The most rewarding aspect of coaching for Melissa is seeing her team succeed both on and off the mat.

“It has been incredible to see these young women transform into not just amazing athletes, but strong academic performers and overall, just good human beings. I see it with my team now, how they celebrate each other successes and support one another in such a positive way. I truly believe that young women need that, and to be able to help build and foster that type of environment has been very rewarding.  But that is not my accomplishment, it is theirs. I am there to help bring it out of them, and to continue moving the program in that direction.”

Melissa Lescano takes on each day as a perfect example of a role model and someone to look up to for her team and community.