If Patriots Cheerleader Athena looks familiar, that's because the cheerleading gene runs in her family. Athena's mother cheered for the Patriots in the 1980's and now she follows in her mother's footsteps. The life-long Patriots fan just graduated from an upstate New York college and where she spent four years in Giants and Jets fans' territory.
Q: Tell us about where you grew up.
Athena: I grew up in Southbridge, Mass. and went to Shepherd Hill Regional High School. I started out college at UMass on a full educational scholarship before transferring to Morrisville State College. I loved it, a little cow town in upstate New York. After changing schools, I was able to prosper in the new environment.
Q: It must have been a tough transition to transfer to a different college.
Athena: UMass was just too big for me. I'm more of a small-town girl. I liked the small environment feel at that school. My college had less than 3,000 students - perfect for me. I was elected president of our student government, I was a resident assistant and I was an editor of the school newspaper. I was able to do more there. I just graduated this past May with a Bachelor of Science in journalism and communication for online media.
Q: What are some of your future career aspirations?
Athena: With such a difficult job market out there, I am considering going back to school for my master's degree. I love learning. But for the near future, I would consider working in public relations or advertising.
Q: Have you always been a Patriots fan?
Athena: Oh yeah, since I was little. My mom was a Patriots Cheerleader in 1984. It's so cool that we share that experience! In my first Christmas picture, I was in a Patriots cheerleader outfit and my brother wore a Patriots jersey. That's all I've ever know and it was especially difficult going to college in New York with lots of Jets and Giants fans. I couldn't see myself cheering for any other football team.
Q: What made you want to become a Patriots Cheerleader?
Athena: I did obviously want to be a Patriots Cheerleader because my mom was one. I thought it was so cool growing up, I proudly told my friends about it all the time. I wanted to join a team that was a tightly knit group and I have also made life-long friends while on the squad. It's a sisterhood.
Q: Tell us about the audition process.
Athena: I originally auditioned in 2008 and made it through the first round of cuts. I made it through boot camp, but ended up getting cut. That was hard to get so close to being on the squad and then being told to wait a year. I decided to take a year off and not audition in 2009 because I wanted to work on everything. I came back for the 2010 audition and it is overwhelming being in the same room with hundreds of talented candidates. I just kept pushing, dancing and smiling. I guess the judges saw there was something there - deep down.
Q: What was the football knowledge quiz like that you had to take during auditions?
Athena: I think that if you're going to be a cheerleader for an NFL team, you should probably be passionate about football and be knowledgeable on the subject already. I got the quiz and felt confident, but it was more than just basic football stuff. I felt accomplished after I learned about all the questions on the quiz. A lot of people including guys wouldn't know all that we had to answer! We do a lot of appearances, so it is good to know about what we are cheering for and representing.
Q: What would you like to take away from your experience as a Patriots Cheerleader?
Athena: I feel like I've taken so much away from this experience already. When you join the team you're a rookie and scared. Eventually see yourself transform. My appearance has changed, my level of activity has changed and the friends I've made have made it such a valuable experience. I've learned so much about who I am and what I'm capable of. I don't know what else there is to come, but I'm excited to learn.
Q: You have a unique first name.
Athena: Everyone thinks I'm Greek. I get that all the time. I'm actually Albanian - that's as close as I get to being Greek. It was actually my great-grandmother's name.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Athena: I'm a big computer nerd. I like to edit photos on the computer - also like to read and write a lot. I also like to scrapbook which is also kind of nerdy I guess [laughs]. Getting in the car and just going for a long drive to listen to music also can be very relaxing to me.