To Vanessa Oropeza, a sophomore studying psychology, cheer means cherished memories and long hours of exercise.

Since elementary school, Oropeza dreamed of being a cheerleader. Oropeza didn’t make it as a freshman, but she refused to allow failure to keep her down.

Her hard work paid off as she was rallying in uniform by sophomore year. However, she quickly learned that there is more to cheerleading than memorizing chants.

“You really have to trust not only yourself but your team members to catch you in stunts,” Oropeza said. “It puts you out of your comfort zone.”

Another element out of Oropeza’s comfort zone involves temperatures below freezing. This year, after a lifetime in Southern California, she faced her first Rexburg winter.

“Last semester was really rough,” Oropeza said. “I was always inside; I’m an extrovert and love being outside and meeting people.”

During this time, Oropeza discovered a ray of hope. Her friend told her about BYU-Idaho’s cheer team. It brightened her mood and gave her something to look forward to.

Oropeza made it spring semester and joined Rexburg Cheer, a community cheer team made up of BYU-I students. She is enjoying her experience, though the pace is much more demanding than her high school’s squad.

“Now whenever I feel stressed, I just go to cheer and let everything out,” Oropeza said. “It also lets out a lot of sweat.”

Through everything, cheer has granted Oropeza an outlet for the strains of daily life.