“I thought [the school] was so big, and intimidating,” Adams said. “I was really nervous. I kind of psyched myself out.”
But Adams was ready for a change; she desired a different experience than anything she knew at her current school, and felt trapped with the minimal opportunities that Lutheran High School had to offer.
“I would be graduating with the same people I went to kindergarten with,” Adams said, “and I just don’t like that.”
After her father’s death when she was 11-years-old, Adams and her mother decided to move from their home in Raytown, Mo. to the Prairie Village area for high school. Her sister, who had attended school in Raytown and didn’t recommend the experience for her sister, did her research after going to law school in Texas about potential neighborhoods in Kansas City. She let her mother and Adams know that the area surrounding Shawnee Mission East was “a good area.”
“I had a choice whether to go to North or East, and we just randomly chose East,” Adams said, “and thank God––I think it’s a really good fit for me.”
She decided to complete grades K-8 at the private Lutheran academy on 83rd and Ward Parkway, as a way to expand her opportunities for her future.
With her closest sibling in age standing at seven years older, Adams and her mother were living at home by themselves when they packed up for Prairie Village. The two were “still moving in” to their home near East when Adams was attending her first day of high school.
The summer before her freshman year, Adams got involved with the Lancer Cheer Clinic as a way to practice her prior cheerleading and gymnastics skills. She had tumbled from age three to 10, and had been active in her school’s small cheerleading program at Calvary Lutheran. Her background in the sport gave her the idea to try out for the freshman squad at East.
“We had a clinic, three days a week, where we would learn the dance and the cheer,” Adams said. “I would just go over it, over and over, at my house.”
The tryout went better than she had expected––although she was confident in her abilities, she “never assumed [she] would make it.”
“I made it, and then all my friends were the girls on the cheer squad,” Adams said. “I kept doing it, because I just really liked it. It was never like a question, like ‘Should I try out again?”
Cheerleading became the vessel through which Adams met her peers; it became the one thing that tied her to the school, and the activity that brought about her most memorable experiences at East.
“The whole squad are my best friends––cheerleading memories will stay with me the most,” Adams said. “I couldn’t have had that at the other school at all.”
Fellow senior and Adams’ boyfriend Scott Watson believes that cheer made a lasting impact on her from the get-go.
“Instantly, when she got here, [cheer] helped her get involved and meet a lot of her peers and friends,” Watson said. “I think it’s been a very good and helpful part of her life.”
During mid-May her junior year, Adams found out that she had won a captain position for the varsity squad for her senior year, alongside senior Lauren Fischer. She checked the sheet posted on the coaches door and was surprised to find her name, not alongside the majority of her peers, but at the top of the list.
“I was just shocked,” Adams said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life––it was just awesome.”
Adams spent the year coordinating dances and cheers and focusing the varsity squad’s attention on trying new things, such as stunting. She feels that her position as one of the squad’s captains was an apt one, because of her natural inclination for taking control.
“I’m really organized, and I like being in control and having a say in what’s being done and getting it done,” Adams said. “I think it was a really good spot for me.”
Watson agrees that the spot was right for her.
“She’s one of the most organized people I’ve ever met,” Watson said. “She’s always got lists of what needs to get done, and she never misses a deadline.”
In the fall, she will be attending the University of Southern California (USC), with her major set in public relations. She was accepted into the school through a program called QuestBridge, whose mission statement is to be a “non-profit program that links bright, motivated low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities at some of the nation’s best colleges.” Her applications, which she sent to 17 different highly-ranked schools through the program, were sent free, and in being accepted to USC she received a substantial amount of financial aid to attend the school.
As integral to her high school experience as its been, Adams does not plan to continue cheerleading in the future. She feels the cheerleaders at USC are “amazing”––”so I don’t even want to try.” She also feels that the new experience will be too much for her to handle if she attempts to balance cheer tryouts with rushing and academics.
Adams plans to pursue a career in public relations, a part of the journalism and communications school at USC. She hopes to pursue public relations work for a large corporation in the future, while “working her way up in a company.”
“I think she’s going to be very successful, she’s got big career plans already,” Watson said. “I think she’ll do some good things.”
Though Adams is moving forward in her life, she will continue to hold Kansas City and Shawnee Mission East as places that have been important to her personal growth. Adams acknowledges that there have been “some bad things that have happened” to her in the past, such as her father’s death, but she feels that they have made her who she is as a person. She keeps a positive attitude.
“If my dad wouldn’t have died, we’d probably still live in Raytown,” Adams said. “I’m so glad I did, I’ve met so many good friends and had so many great experiences. I feel like I’d be a different person if I hadn’t come to East. I like who I am.”
Story by Kat Buchanan