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She’s ‘small but mighty’ and ready to fly

On track to graduate despite period of homelessness

In competitive cheer, there are the people on top, the flyers, and the people at the bottom, the base.

Naudia Potts has been on the competitive cheer team at Kelloggsville High School for four years. She calls it a lifesaver (more on that later) and to look at her is to see a flyer. She stands 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs just north of 100 pounds. But, no, she says with a laugh, she was a base. She adds: “I’m small but mighty.”

Her coach, Marcia Cisler, a teacher at Kelloggsville Middle School, agrees.

“She is strong and tough,” says Cisler. “She has been on my team since she was in middle school. She has come through many challenges, and it has only made her stronger.”

Although having her senior year cut short by Covid-19 was tough enough, an even more significant challenge for Naudia came in ninth grade, when she was homeless for part of the year.

‘I’ve learned that to get things done you have to do it yourself.’

— Naudia Potts, Kelloggsville High senior

She and her family were evicted. After that it was a series of various living locations, including motels, relatives, friends and more. It’s not really anything she wants to get into in great depth, nor something she wants to dwell on or have define her. But it took its toll.

Though her grades as a senior are stellar, her overall grade-point average still suffers as a result of several failing grades she received as a freshman, when her attendance was sporadic because of her situation.

Naudia Potts and Kelloggsville band director Troy Anderson created their own ‘twin day’ and dressed alike

There Every Step of the Way

People like Cisler and Kelloggsville High School teacher and band director Troy Anderson, whom she’s known for seven years now, helped get her through what she recalls as some of the toughest times of her life. Naudia, who has played the clarinet since sixth grade, is in her fourth year of high school band, all under Anderson’s capable baton.

Of Anderson she says simply: “He was there every step of the way. He wrote some stuff when it looked like I might be going to court to become independent. I don’t know, he’s just been there. It made a big difference.”

Anderson quietly parries the praise when he is told that Naudia considers him one of the most important parts of her high school career.

“I honestly don’t know anything I did to help her through,” he says. “She is a self-motivated person if I’ve ever seen one. To have so many things going on in her personal life, yet be able to put it aside to do all of the different things she was involved in, is a level of compartmentalizing that would be hard for most adults I know.”

Naudia smiles and nods her head when she’s told about Anderson’s description of her.

“In the middle of everything, during ninth grade, my biggest thought was to keep pushing,” she says. “I needed a better life and since my parents could not do it, I would.”

Kelloggsville High School competitive cheer seniors (from left): Alicianna Moora, Naudia Potts, Eileen Liang, Arrenda Brigance, Dana Nguyen and Genesis Sosa

A Drive to be the Best

Cheerleading and band helped her keep pushing, and the camaraderie she found in both played a large role in keeping her afloat.

“My favorite thing about cheer is the bond you can form with the girls on the team,” she says. “I was friends with people that I would never reach out to by myself. And our band, our band is like a giant family.”

Cheer coach Cisler said Naudia gave as much as she got when it came to the cheer family.

“She brought a drive to be better and team cohesiveness,” Cisler said. “She is a true leader and a lot of the younger girls looked up to her and took her advice. We need more girls like her. Her drive to be the best shows how determined she can be to get what she wants.

Band director Anderson agrees.

“She is a hard worker,” he says. “She was part of our leadership team, and she was so consistent in the way she did things. She is team oriented, and that is very important in band and in her role as a leader.”

‘You Need to Push Forward’

In addition to cheer, band, schoolwork and more, Naudia worked concessions at Kelloggsville home games to pay for band camp. She has been involved in be nice (students who do random acts of kindness); has been part of the Art Club; volunteered at Culver’s; been in Young Leaders Against Violence (students who raise awareness about teens and abuse); organizes study groups; and works part-time at Walmart! All while consistently boosting her grades from her freshman year to her senior year.

‘Her drive to be the best shows how determined she can be to get what she wants.’

— Marcia Cisler, competitive cheer team coach

Indeed, though she was first denied admission by Central Michigan University, Naudia didn’t take no for an answer. She called them and explained her situation, firmly but politely, and why she’d gotten off to a rough start in high school.

“I’ve learned” she says, “that to get things done you have to do it yourself. You need to push forward.”

CMU listened, and she was accepted. She’ll head to Mount Pleasant in the fall to live in residence. She plans to try out for the competitive cheer team and major in social work. She smiles when she says this, knowing the answer begs the obvious question.

“Because of what you went through?”

“Yes,” she says with a nod, “because of what I went through. Good social workers, the ones who are involved and who care, make all the difference. That’s who I want to be.”

Those who know her well say that’s already who she is.

Indeed, in describing Naudia’s abilities as a member of the competitive cheer team, her coach noted that she also was providing a metaphorical description of Naudia the person.

“She is an awesome base,” Cisler says, “but she can also fly.”

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio or email Phil.

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