Luismanuel Vargas found his way into cheerleading by chance. He practiced ballet and hip-hop dance as a child, and one of his instructors suggested he take up cheerleading in high school.
Just three years after he took that advice, Vargas is headed to London to participate in a New Year’s Day parade through the city as part of a 15-person high school All-American cheer squad in association with the United Spirit Association, the National Dance Team Alliance and National Cheerleaders Association.
The Coachella Valley High School junior, 16, is one of three members of the team from California, and is believed to be the only selection ever from the Coachella Valley. He earned a spot during a June tryout at Knots Berry Farm in Buena Park, with roughly 10 percent of nationwide participants making the team.
“I’ve never even flown before, so it’s kind of scary, kind of exciting,” Vargas said. “More exciting, though.”
The group will fly to London on Dec. 26 and return on Jan. 2. They’ll have six days to visit Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and whatever else they have in mind before the parade, which stretches from The Ritz London to Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster on the banks of the River Thames.
Sixty-six other groups, including marching bands and individuals dressed as Star Wars characters and Transformers, will participate in the parade.
Among the things Vargas said he is looking forward to most is a nighttime “disco cruise” his team will take on the Thames on Dec. 28.
Most of all, though, he said he’s excited to be a part of weeklong experience that will provide lifelong memories, and perhaps even help him reach his ultimate goal of competing for the National Coed Team.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said, “and something I’ll remember for a long time.”