Jasmine Russell Gives Stillman College Something to Cheer About
Jasmine Russell didn’t flip in the air when she found out that she was accepted into Florida Coastal Law School, but she could have. The former cheerleader who graduated in May 2012 spent much of her time off the ground during her Stillman days. Serving as the squad’s flyer meant that, when she wasn’t impressing the crowd with her amazing round off backhand spring back tucks and other gravity-defying maneuvers, she was the cheerleader that her teammates tossed extremely high in the air and caught in poses that never failed to dazzle spectators.
Three years ago, Jasmine founded Tumble Your Way to the Top. Through the program, which provides tumbling and cheerleading lessons for kids at the Cooper Community Center in Alexander City, AL, Jasmine says she has been able to “give back to the community” and “give kids something positive to do.”
“The Lord blessed me with cheer skills that I can share with others. It’s nice to see the kids smile. Cheer and tumbling can also help to boost a child’s self-esteem. Sometimes shy kids don’t have an opportunity to participate in cheer at school. My program gives them an opportunity to cheer and it also helps them to open up and meet new friends,” says Jasmine, who graduated with a B.A. in history in May 2012.
Russell offers lessons for children between the ages of 4 and 12 each summer, which gives her an opportunity to remain in touch with students and hear about the impact that her program is having. “One young lady who tried out and didn’t make the squad at her middle school, came to my program to improve her skills. The next year, she made the team at her school,” Jasmine recalls.
While being a former cheerleader en route to law school might sound enviably glamorous, Russell has had her share of challenges. When she was in grammar school, she remembers how neighbors used to come to her home bringing food and sympathy. Her father had cancer and couldn’t work. The power was turned off in their home because he couldn’t afford to pay the utility bills. Doctors were convinced that he wouldn’t make it, but he is now a 13-year cancer survivor.
Russell was again reminded of how fragile life can be when a powerful tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011, flattening homes and businesses while she and many of her classmates sat downstairs in Roulhac Hall waiting for the storm to subside. Among the 51 individuals in Tuscaloosa whose deaths were attributed to the tornado was Stillman senior William Chase Stevens, a baseball player who was known to his friends as ‘Will.’
“It was really sad to learn that he had died. He was a history major so he was in pretty much all of my classes. We had a memorial to remember his life. He was a wonderful student. He was very caring and willing to help anyone,” she recalls.
“After the storm, Stillman students came together to help. We cleaned debris and helped serve lunch at a soup kitchen. We also held clothing and food drives at Central High School for kids who had lost their homes. It’s important for me to continue to give back by sharing my gifts and talents with others. Because of my own experiences—the way people helped us when my father was ill, it means a lot to me to give back to others. I could relate to kids whose homes had been destroyed by the tornado.”
“My passion for service was also inspired by the various service projects hosted by my church, Greater Works Outreach Ministry, and this passion continued when I became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, whose mission is "Service To All Mankind.""
Through law, Russell hopes to have an even greater impact on the lives of young people. “I’m interested in criminal law or in juvenile law—something dealing with youth because I am able to connect with kids. Through community service and through my tumbling program, I’m around kids often. I would like to be the type of lawyer who is able to help them. Just because a young person makes a mistake, that doesn’t mean that the mistake has to define who he or she will become as an adult. That’s one of the reasons I have always wanted to become a lawyer. When I found out that I was accepted into law school, I was so excited.”
This year, Russell has a record 41 children in her cheer and tumbling program. Her students are preparing to perform in a recital on August 4th, 3 p.m., at the Cooper Community Center in Alexander City.
“Each age will perform a cheer, a dance and various tumbling routines,” states Russell. And while she admits that she is more nervous about beginning that notoriously difficult first year of law school than her students are about landing their backhand springs, Russell can rest assured that thousands of proud Stillmanites will be cheering her on.
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