Cheerleader with Down syndrome breaks down barriers at Bradley


BRADLEY COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — The word “limitations” isn’t even on Carly Smith’s radar. She’s Bradley Central’s first cheerleader with Down syndrome, and she’s breaking down barriers — one cheer at a time.

“I like spreading cheer and love,” Smith said.

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17-year-old Carly Smith’s love for cheerleading immediately stood out in Bradley Central’s cheer tryouts two summers ago.

“I saw her, and honestly I was super excited, because most kids they wouldn’t try out for something like that,” senior captain Autumn Deal said.

“Instantly, I just kind of felt in my heart, ‘Hey, I think this girl would be great on the squad,'” Coach Carrie Ivester said. “I was watching her at the tryout and she picked it up sometimes better than the other girls. It was very surprising to me so I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s give it a try.”

Smith wasn’t new to cheerleading. Thanks to Lake Forest Middle School teacher Jennifer Glass, Smith began her cheering career across town for the Bruins.

She didn’t miss a single beat when she joined the high school squad.

“Let me tell you, she knows all those cheers before any other girl and she can tell the girls what cheer she wants to do,” Ivester said.

“It makes me awesome and powerful,” Smith said. “I love being at Bradley. It’s my inner school. It’s my favorite school in the whole world.”

Smith shows that love to everyone she comes in contact with.

“I feel like a lot of cheer squads don’t have the opportunity to have someone like Carly on their team,” senior Brileigh Hicks said. “She’s always happy, smiling, always has an attitude.”

“I think when they see her on the sidelines, I think it just makes everyone smile, because she loves it, and she’s just having so much fun,” Deal said.

“It spreads happiness to all of us, and she always makes us feel like we can do anything,” freshman Keylee Varnell said.

That’s exactly what Smith intends to do.

“I want to be a kindergarten teacher… and make some money,” Deal said.

“She’s knows what she’s made of, and she’s never negative about herself and always confident in herself,” Varnell said.

“She’s independent, and she loves it, and so for me, it just helps because I’m not having to even say there is a difference because there’s not,” Ivester said.

“Having her on the squad just brings out the best in all of us,” Deal said.

You can see Carly at all Bradley Central home games, cheering on her favorite players.

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Angela joined the News 12 team in November of 2017 as the weekend sports anchor and reporter. Angela is a proud member of an Army family, which means she has hometowns all over the Eastern Seaboard. Most recently, she calls Peachtree City, Georgia, home, where she graduated from Trinity Christian School and spent her free time driving her purple golf cart. She then headed to Milledgeville, Georgia, to attend Georgia College and State University. A proud Bobcat, Angela graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Mass Communication and represented her December 2016 class as one of three valedictorians. Angela comes to the Scenic City from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she worked at the NBC affiliate, WMBF News. Before the big move, she worked as Georgia College's Sports Information Assistant, which let her get paid to be the Bobcats' biggest fan. It all started in Savannah, Georgia, though, where she interned for SAV's number one station, WTOC. When she's not working, you can find Angela watching the New York Giants, Rangers or basically any other game that's on. She also loves traveling, hiking and exploring new places, all with her camera in hand. If you have any story ideas, big or small, feel free to reach out to her on Facebook and Twitter, or email her at"