Wheelchair Doesn't Hold Back Latina Cheerleader


New Britain High School cheerleaders Jaysha Lee Torres and Kaysha Alicea. (Photo by Mike Orazzi, New Britain Herald)
By Robert Cyr
Like the other cheerleaders at New Britain High School, Kaysha Alicea cheers on her team with the rest of her squad. And just like her fellow squad members, she is the catalyst for school spirit. But unlike her peers, she does it from the confines of her wheelchair.
Alicea, an upbeat and cheerful senior at New Britain High School, has spinal muscular atrophy, which affects her voluntary muscles and forced her to use a walker and wheelchair when she was nine years old.
Despite her condition, Alicea said she chooses to focus on the positive, rather than dwell on her disability. 
After joining the squad in September, she cheered for the football and basketball teams to prove to herself, and to several nay-sayers, that being in a wheelchair did not make her contribution to the squad any less than valuable. She was also on the squad for two games of the powder puff football team.
“I wanted to be be able to show them I can do more with the wheelchair than just sitting down and keeping my head up,” she said. “People have said I couldn’t do it over the course of the season, but I didn’t listen to them. I just keep going.”
While her friends and teachers are supportive, the journey is not always easy. Alicea admitted that one of the biggest challenges is watching her squad-mates do routines that she is not able to do because of her disability.
“I just look at them and I want to do the same stunts, but I can’t because I’m in a wheelchair,” she said. “But I watch and cheer them on anyway.”
After graduation, Alicea plans to attend Tunxis Community College for two years before transferring to Post in Waterbury to major in journalism and criminal justice.
Principal Michael Foran called Alicea “a great role model” for her fellow students.
“She is always positive and always has a smile,” he said. “I look forward to seeing her every day. Her spirit and positive energy inspires me and I know it inspires others.”