A place to stand out: Student’s search for something to be involved in

Jessica Allman, Staff Writter

Tears filled her eyes as all she had been preparing for and hoping for shattered before her feet. Her mother, her inspiration, was there for her through it all. When senior Kristen Whittaker didn’t make Planoettes, her initial feelings were defeat and disappointment. But she didn’t give up. She was determined to find something she could stand out in. Something that she could be a part of.

Whittaker had been dancing with her church for as long as she could remember. She decided to take her passion for dance to the next level by trying out for Planoettes in the spring of her sophomore year.

“The type of dancing I had been doing at my church was a lot different than what the Planoettes do,” Whittaker said. “But I really wanted to try out so I began to take lessons and learn what I needed to learn. I had previously tried out for cheerleading, but I couldn’t really do flips and tumble around, which is what is expected for cheerleaders. So I thought maybe Planoettes would work out better.”

The week of Planoette tryouts Whittaker stayed late with other Planoette hopefuls to practice and took a dance class for three weeks in preparation for the week of tryouts.

“I worked really hard in the class,” Whittaker said. “It took a lot of dedication and time but I was willing to do it because I wanted to be a Planoette so bad. I wanted to fit in and be a part of something. I wanted to be one of the girls with the cute little hats and walk around with my bag and feel special. It was important to me to fit in with everyone else and be like ‘Oh yeah, I’m on Planoettes!’ I just wanted to feel accepted.”

Whittaker found out she didn’t make the Planoettes the day after tryouts.

“I spent the day with my mom after I got the news,” Whittaker said. “She was very supportive and comforting. She took me out to Olive Garden, my favorite restaurant, and we got our nails done. She kept telling me it wasn’t the end of the world and that it was okay. All my friends were calling to check up on me, even my friends that did make it. They told me not to worry or take it personally. They really made things better and were there for me through it all. After the first two days I was alright.”

Whittaker’s mother, LaDonna Williams, was there for her with words of encouragement when she was upset about not making drill team.

“I told her that drill team just wasn’t for her,” Williams said. “She needed to try out for things that are more similar to the gifts she has. She’s good at drama and public speaking so I try to get her to try out for things more along those lines. I told her dance wasn’t necessarily her gifted area and she has plenty of other gifts she can put to use. She doesn’t need to try and please others.”

Going into her senior year, Whittaker got a call from a close friend about possibly being on color guard.

“Carlesha called me and told me she had something to ask me,” Whittaker said. “She asked me if I would consider being on color guard with her. She told me that they were in need of more girls on the team and that I should join. I couldn’t think of a reason not to join so I said ‘sure, why not’ and called the color guard director Mrs. Chelsea and told her that I wanted to be on the team.”

After deciding to join the team, Whittaker attended a summer camp where she learned flag routines and marches and got the opportunity to meet the girls on the team.

“The feelings of happiness and urgency came to me when I went to the first practice at camp,” Whittaker said. “I knew most of the girls and I was just like ‘Oh hey, I know you and you and you and you too’ and they immediately made me feel welcome and helped out with teaching me and showing me how to do things. I just thought to myself, ‘Okay, I’m really going to do this.’ I was excited. I knew I was taking on a lot but I was ready.”

When Whittaker told her mother she was joining color guard, she was supportive and happy that her daughter had found something to be a part of.

“The opportunity came up and she decided to take it,” Williams said. “It’s her senior year and she’s getting to be involved in something like she has always wanted to be. I’m so happy for her.”

Whittaker was surprised but willing to put in the amount of hard work it would take to be on color guard.

“When I first got into it I thought it was going to be easy, but then at the first practice and I was like ‘Uh, say what now?’” Whittaker said. “I thought all they did was throw the flag in the air and march with the band, but it’s so much more than that. The girls were quick to help me out though. I thought it was just going to be throwing a flag, but it’s throw it with your left hand, catch it with your right hand, pull it underneath your arm and all that. I mean it was just ridiculously confusing. I have respect for the girls that have been on color guard for a long time. They live and breathe color guard because it’s their forum of dance. The flag is their form of surrender.”

As a new member of color guard, Whittaker’s search to find something to be a part of is finally over.

“I just had my mind set that I was going to be in something. I didn’t care what it was or where it was, I just had to be part of something,” Whittaker said. “I’ve always been determined to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I finally found that.”

Whittaker’s inspiration to keep pushing on and find something to be involved in primarily comes from her mother.

“She has such dedication for singing,” Whittaker said. “She’s been working on her voice for a very long time to try and make it where she can do something big with it. I’ve seen her hard work pay off. They let her sing in the church sometimes. Seeing her not give up motivates me. She does not give up by any means.”

Whittaker has learned many valuable lessons through her experiences in trying out for drill team and now being on color guard.

“I’ve learned that you can’t beat yourself up about not making something, especially if you put all that you’ve got into it and tried your hardest,” Whittaker said. “Just keep going on.  Don’t do something to be accepted or because you want your name to be known. Do it because that’s your heart and that’s what you love doing.”

Williams said she can’t describe how proud she is of her daughter and her dedication.

“She’s just like me,” Williams said. “She’s very persistent. When she knows what she wants she will go for it, no doubt. She didn’t expect to be on color guard, but once she felt accepted and like it was something she could be successful in, she put all her effort into it. Sure, it was a struggle for her at first, but she did not give up. She’s an inspiration to me with how hard she works toward things she really wants. I call her my angel. I’m so excited to see what the Lord has planned for her life and how she will use all the gifts she has in her.”