Spreading her wings

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If former Georgia State cheerleader Lauren Pittman ever gave up on her strives of becoming a dancer, she wouldn’t be flying so high today.

Submitted photo

In spite of only being 19 years old, Pittman is a member of the Atlanta Hawks’ cheering squad.

“I’ve been dancing since I was two years old,” Pittman said. “I was only a cheerleader for four years in high school. I was actually never that good at cheerleading, but I’ve had a passion for dancing my entire life. It was my dream, and now I’m living it.”

Pittman said that to be a Hawks cheerleader at such a young age is a surreal experience, and pointed out the intense preparation and hard work it took to get to her position.

“I’m by far the youngest on the squad. Every other member is in their mid-twenties or older, and it’s amazing I was able to join at this age,” Pittman said. “I was on the Hawk’s cheerleading website every day trying to audition, and I worked out every single day of the summer, almost entirely by myself.”

Pittman said that her position on the Hawks’ squad has its pros and cons.

“I can’t always go out and celebrate with them, since I’m underage and all. Sometimes it makes me feel a little excluded, but there are some great women in the program that I look up to,” Pittman said. “I’ve always felt a little ahead of my time though, and being a rookie requires that I have everything together at all times. There’s very little time to sit and chat.”

Even though she can be seen at professional basketball games now, Pittman made sure to pay homage to where it all began – Georgia State’s cheer squad.

“Being a Pantherette was a lot of fun. Everyone is very enthusiastic, and the coaches are great,” Pittman said. “I always felt like we were one big family because of the amount of time we spent together.”

Pittman mentions the differences of being on a professional cheerleading team as well.

“At times, things got a little redundant with the Pantherettes. It wasn’t always a challenge for me, personally,” Pittman said. “Hawks training is more intense, and there’s a bit more emphasis put on individual appearance.”

Pittman was very detailed while talking about the feeling she gets when she’s on the court with the Hawks’ cheerleaders.

“It’s an amazing adrenaline rush. I get extremely excited every time,” Pittman said. “I knew I wanted to be a cheerleader about 10 or 15 years ago when I attended a Hawks game and saw them perform; I love being able to go out there and give another little girl that same feeling I had when I was watching at that age. There are thousands of eyes on you, and it’s a great feeling knowing that everyone sees your talents.”

Pittman began her educational endeavors at Valdosta State University. After an abrupt transfer, she found herself at Georgia State.

Pittman plans on transferring to Emory or Mercer University to complete her nursing degree, acknowledging her desire to quickly finish school.

“I’ve always loved science and math,” Pittman said. “I’ve also always wanted to help people, and I figured nursing would be the best path for me to go. I just love making people feel better.”

Pittman’s advice to anyone else who hopes to follow in her footsteps was very simple.

“Go after your goals in dance, regardless of what people say,” Pittman said.

Though sometimes success also comes with envy from others.

“None of my friends told me to go out for the Hawks squad. People will always secretly shoot you down, but you can’t let them affect you,” Pittman said. “I had a workout partner who quit working out with me after she found out I was going to try out for the Hawks. It’s important to cancel out the negativity, and do what makes you happy. If it’s right it will work out for you.”

Pittman plans on dancing for as long as physically possible, and hopes to open a dance studio one day.