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June 05th, 2020

jensen mettlen in romeLiberal High School senior Jensen Mettlen prepares to start a dance routine with her group during a special trip to Rome during the holiday break. Mettlen got the opportunity after winning a spot on the All-American team during cheer camp in Norman, Okla. and ultimately chose to go to Rome. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Rome is full of history, culture, good food and fun for those who visit. During Christmas break, Liberal High School senior Jensen Mettlen got to experience all of those on a visit of her own. 

Mettlen has been involved in dance and cheer in the community for several years and got to show off her skills during a new year’s parade across the pond.

“My mom had me in classes starting when I was about 3 and since then I've done dance and I've enjoyed it a lot,” Mettlen said. “I like dance because it's a great art form and it helps you show who you truly are and it gives you a different perspective on things. Dance is always changing and cheerleading is always changing and no matter how good you already are, you can always get better and improve, so what has kept me in love with dance so long is knowing there's always something new to learn and something new to do. Dance and cheer are something I definitely want to keep up with in college – I haven't yet decided where I want to go, but wherever I do go, I want to keep up dance and cheer.”

Mettlen’s trip had her in Italy starting right after Christmas. 

“We flew out of Dallas to Rome Dec. 26 and then we came back Jan. 2, so we were there in Rome for New Year's. The main point of the trip was so I could perform with a group in a parade that was going on there,” Mettlen said. “At cheer camp this summer, we all auditioned for this opportunity, and I was named to the All-American team and had the chance to go on this trip.”

Upon making the All-American team, Mettlen said it was a rather easy decision where to visit. 

“When you make the team, they give you a pamphlet and you get to choose to go to Florida, Pennsylvania, London or Rome,” Mettlen said. “I've been wanting to do this for a really long time now, but I always had to wait and then I decided on going to Rome. I was really excited for the opportunity because I've never been there before and it was just a really exciting experience. I met so many new people and made so many new friends through this, and it was great because the people there treated us almost like celebrities because they don't see very many people with pom-poms and those things. Overall it was just a great experience.”

Before officially heading to Rome, however, Mettlen said there were a few things to be done beforehand. 

“I fundraised my entire trip there by selling meals and t-shirts for the high school and things like that, and we were also selling stuff at the farmer's market, so another good thing is I learned quite a bit about how to have a successful fundraiser,” Mettlen said. “There were so many people in the community who supported me on this and I can't thank them enough. I got on the team in July at cheer camp in Norman, Okla. and then only a short time later I started fundraising and then in September I raised everything I needed.”

During the parade performance, Mettlen said there were several thoughts and feelings going through her mind. 

“One of the things that was going through my mind was how excited I was and how I had to show that because they were filming us whether we're standing there waiting for our cue or actually dancing, so I just kept a very happy and excited and expression on my face, which ultimately wasn't too hard since I was so happy to be there,” Mettlen said with a laugh. “There were also some mixed emotions like nervousness and those things because we did have to repeat the routine more than once and we all wanted to make sure we got it right for everyone. But overall, it was great seeing the expressions of everyone in the crowd watching you and then getting the feedback from everyone – it's something that might seem simple to us here in the U.S., but over there it's a much bigger deal since they don't see things like that all the time.”

Along with performing in the parade, Mettlen said there were a lot of other parts of Rome to take in. 

“A lot of what we did was based on sightseeing and learning about some of the history of Rome, which was really cool. We saw the Colosseum and the David sculpture and Vatican City, all of which were really cool,” Mettlen said. “While we were there, we only had one group practice together – they'd sent the routine video to everyone to learn before we left and that was the routine we performed in the parade on New Year's Day through the main street of Rome. It was really cool learning about all the history and culture of the area, and everyone was really amazed at us because there really aren't any cheerleaders or similar groups there. There's also some amazing food there – they have amazing pizza and gelato and macaroons and cannolis and other food that's just beyond delicious. I actually even brought some macaroons home with me for my friends so they could have a taste and I'd say basically every other building was a restaurant of some type and it was all just delicious.”

Overall, Mettlen said, the trip is an experience she will not soon forget. 

“There was so much we learned about the culture there like how they live and what their money is like and just overall what life is like there in Italy, and it was amazing. I would also like to give a huge thank you to my dance teachers and coaches for making this possible because I've worked hard every year for this opportunity, and I can't believe I was finally able to do it this year,” Mettlen said. “If you have an opportunity like this, go for it. The thoughts definitely crossed my mind of 'I'm not going to know anyone' and 'I'll have a hard time with the language' and things like that, but just go for it because everyone is so nice and willing to help you out. There are a lot of friends I made who I'll be sure to keep in touch with, and it's great knowing those connections were made. Overall it's just an amazing experience so if you can go on something like this, it's well worth it, so go for it if you can.”

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