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About a month ago, the story of Julia Sullivan began to receive national attention. Julia, a sixteen-year-old Nebraska resident who was born without legs and with arms that end at her elbows, had three times tried out for her high school cheerleading squad and each time she had been told she didn’t make the team. As a result, Julia’s parents filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit with the school, prompting the broad media coverage.

Upon hearing Julia’s story, Linda Fox, the cheerleading coach of Portland High School in Portland, Michigan, invited Julia to join the Raider cheerleaders for their Homecoming festivities. Anyone with Julia’s drive and tenacity, Fox figured, would always be welcome on one of her teams.

Julia took the field with her Raider teammates on September 23, and helped cheer the home team to victory.

Having lived in Portland for the last 8 years, I followed this story closely. The entire community stepped up to make Julia’s experience a memorable one. And, to be sure, Julia’s visit enriched the lives of countless city residents as well. Maybe it was because many Michiganders can relate, in some way, to Julia’s situation: responding to doubt with grace, courage, and perseverance.

In the wake of her time with the Portland Raiders, Julia’s parents have dropped their lawsuit against her Nebraska high school. The school has agreed to update its tryout criteria to give special consideration (and, potentially, accommodations) to Julia’s perceived limitations. Julia has vowed to try out again next year, and, as she has proven to Portland and the rest of the country, it’s foolish to doubt her.

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