Shylah Collins brings special spirit to Philadelphia cheer

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Spending only an afternoon with Shylah Collins was enough to see the impact she has on those around her.

While walking around the Philadelphia High School campus, both students and staff would stop and say hello to Shylah, some even stopping to give her a hug.

"It's so hard not to love her," Shylah's teacher Mrs. Bose said. "She's like a little celebrity. She'll go to the vending machines with only a quarter and somehow always get someone to buy her a snack...it's hard to say no to her."

Shyla, who was born with Down syndrome, sees Mrs. Bose more as a second mother than teacher.

Mrs. Bose has known Shylah since she was in the seventh grade. In recent years, she noticed Shylah would get excited whenever cheer tryouts were talked about over the school's intercom.

"I always used to hear Shylah saying she wanted to be a cheerleader. Whenever there was an announcement she would say, ‘I’m going to try out for cheer next year,'" Mrs. Bose said. "She said the same thing the Thursday before this Labor Day weekend...all these years I was hearing her, but I listened to her that day."

Mrs. Bose spoke with Shylah's mother about her interest in wanting to cheer. Once her mother was on board with the idea, they talked with Philadelphia Superintendent Lisa Hull and Philly's cheer coach Melisha Hancock. Soon enough, Shylah had her very own uniform and was officially a member of the squad.

“I said ‘Shylah you’re going to be a cheerleader this Friday’ and Shylah was so happy," Mrs. Bose said. "She ran to me, gave me a kiss and a hug and said ‘Ms. Bose, my dream has come true!"

Shylah can be found on the sidelines of every Philadelphia home football game. Her favorite cheer is 'Go Philly' and she loves doing thigh stands with her teammates help.

Being part of the cheer squad has not only had a positive impact on Shylah but her teammates as well.

“She’s taught me how to be a more friendly person, how to be kind to people and how to love somebody," Shylah's teammate Lakiya Houston said. "She's taught me to just be yourself no matter what the circumstances may be."

Shylah loved learning all the cheers from her teammates and is especially happy when the team wins.

"I feel happy when I get the cheers," Shylah said. "When I cheer, it's perfect."

Shylah said she hopes to continue cheering for the rest of her life.