Cheerleaders from across the state honor peer who was killed

Cheerleaders from across the state honor peer who was killed
September 17
00:00 2015

#CheerForYona videos spread after death of former Shaw University cheerleader (submitted photo)

 By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle

The past two weeks have been a emotional roller coaster for Shaw University in Raleigh. Less than 24 hours after celebrating the start of the 2015 football season, the University was shook by the death of former cheerleading captain Keyona Verdell.

Verdell was from Winston-Salem and attended high school at Atkins High School, where she was a cheerleader for four years. She was a third-year student at Shaw and was studying business administration and management.

According to the News & Observer, Verdell was struck and killed by a vehicle Sunday morning, Sept. 6, on New Hope Church Road in Raleigh.

Friends of Verdell recall her as a great friend who had a great sense of humor and loved to cheer. Tia Long, head cheerleading coach at Shaw University, said Keyona was a great cheerleader who always had a smile on her face.

“Keyona was just a joy to be around,” said Long. “She was a great cheerleader, always coming up with the most difficult cheers.”

In honor of Verdell, #CheerForYona videos started to spread across social media platforms like wildfire. Cheerleaders from across the state, high school and college started posting videos of themselves performing cheers dedicated to their fallen cheermate.

Cheer squads from Shaw, North Carolina Central University, Winston-Salem State University and a number of other HBCUs posted videos onto the Web.

In less than two days, over 150 videos had been posted on Instagram. Even non-cheerleaders got into the #CheerForYona movement, posting videos of their own made up cheer routines.

As of Monday, Sept. 14, #CheerForYona had accumulated over 250 videos and over 5,000 likes on Instagram alone.

A memorial pep rally was held on the campus of Shaw University on Thursday, Sept. 10. Current and former students filed into the gym to show their love and support to the Verdell family.

According to Long, the squad has decided to dedicate the season to Verdell, which means they’re going to cheer harder than ever.

“They decided they wanted to dedicate the season to her, so I know they’re going to come hard.”

Friends of Keyona here in Winston-Salem said Verdell was the type of person who got along with everybody. A number of posts left on her Facebook page shows how much she was loved throughout the city.

Rosie Verdell, Keyona’s mother, said her daughter was an angel in disguise.

“Keyona was a real angel in disguise who got along with everybody. She really touched a lot of people.”

Although her daughter has passed on, Rosie Verdell and her family are currently discussing starting a scholarship program in Keyona’s honor. The scholarship will likely go to a young lady who is an active cheerleader in high school.

Keyona’s older brother Xavier Rivers said his sister was serious about cheering, so the scholarship would likely go to someone who wants to cheer at the college level.

“When it came to cheering, my sister didn’t play,” said Rivers. “She really loved being out there, so we wanted to do something that shows that side of her.”






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