Monday, April 28, 2008
By Joyce J. Persico
The Trenton Times
The Trenton Times
A week ago, Jenna Yacyk was getting ready for her last week of classes at Elizabethtown College and the beginning of a career as an occupational therapist.
An e-mail on Wednesday night added a completely new dimension to her life.
She learned that she'd gotten the job of her dreams.
Now, she's officially a part-time, salaried cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles football team and next week is heading to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for a calendar shoot.
Although the rules say only that an Eagles cheerleader be 18 and a high school graduate, Yacyk, a 23-year-old Ewing native and graduate of Lawrence's Notre Dame High School, is career-minded and well-educated.
In May she will receive her master's degree in occupational therapy at Elizabethtown and begin an internship at Philadelphia's Magee Rehabilitation Hospital. She's part of a new generation of women willing to pair the perks of being beautiful with the solid foundation of an education and career goals.
"Most people don't realize how smart these girls are," she said of the competitors she met during the audition process that began in March. "They were all nice to meet and many of them had college degrees."
The 5-foot, 2-inch Yacyk has been involved in dance most of her life, performing in musicals at Notre Dame High School and serving as choreographer for her dance class at Elizabethtown.
It was good preparation that helped her stand out among 400 competitors for the 38 openings on the cheerleading squad.
"I just went to the first audition with my best friend, Katie Fischer of Doylestown, for the fun of it," Yacyk explained. "We both got through to the semifinals. My family is so proud and supportive of me."
Getting there began in March with an open call at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, followed by two cuts, semi-finals, a business interview and a final bathing suit competition to determine beauty, fitness, dance ability and how a finalist could handle herself during an interview.
The finals took place on the stage of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Center in front of an audience of 1,000 that included family and friends.
The new cheerleader is the daughter of Peter and Debbie Yacyk of Ewing, a teacher at East Windsor's Melvin H. Kreps School and a guidance counselor at West Amwell Elementary School, respectively.
"We're all Eagles fans," explained Jenna's 18-year-old sister, Dana, who still lives at home with her parents. "We got the news by e-mail at 1 in the morning and our reaction was ecstatic. We were freakin' out. We think what she did is an awesome accomplishment. We're all proud of her."
Yacyk describes herself as "a lifelong Eagles fan" whose favorite player is kicker David Akers.
"He's a really consistent kicker and I really admire his ability to go into the field and perform under pressure," she noted.
As for the qualities she will bring to cheerleading, Yacyk is ready for anything.
"I'm not shy," she said, laughing at the question. "I'm really outgoing, very sociable and I like meeting people. One of the things that I'm going to like about being a cheerleader for the Eagles is the service aspect of the job, working with breast cancer causes and being a role model."
Yacyk will be expected to attend all Eagles home games, rehearse twice weekly and make appearances every month at charity and corporate events. She will be paid by the hour for her work.
A new crop of cheerleaders is already in the making, perhaps right in Yacyk's own home.
Her sister Dana, a Notre Dame High School student, also is headed for college and planning to major in communications.
But she wouldn't mind following in her sister's footsteps -- after college graduation.
"I'd love to be a cheerleader, too," she admitted.