In a now-viral video posted by her older sister, Emmie Tallent kept up with the official squad members while dancing on the sidelines
Emmie Tallent, who has Down syndrome, was cut from her school cheerleading team in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but still learned the squad's routine
Tallent, 13, matched the official cheerleaders' moves during their performance in an Instagram video posted by her older sister
The teen's mother and sister spoke to PEOPLE about the 7th grader's resilience and how they've responded to the video going viral
After getting cut from her school's cheerleading team, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome continued to let her spirit shine from the sidelines.
In an Instagram video posted by her older sister, Emmie Tallent matched the squad’s every move while they performed inside a gymnasium at their school in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
As the official cheerleaders danced with pom-poms in hand, Emmie proved she could dance the whole routine off the court.
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Her 22-year-old sister, Sydnee, praised the 7th grader’s ambition in the video’s caption.
“Girl didn’t make the cheer team but she don’t care,” Sydnee wrote, adding, “I aspire to have an ounce of her confidence.”
After the Instagram Reel garnered unexpected attention — the clip currently has 3 million views and over 86,000 likes — Sydnee chatted with PEOPLE about Emmie’s cheerleading experience.
“The team did not have a lot of spots and even neurotypical girls (who were much better than Emmie) didn’t make it!” Sydnee tells PEOPLE. “Emmie’s school is super, super supportive, but there are hard decisions that have to be made sometimes.”
Emmie and Sydnee’s mom, Lisa Tallent, says that her younger daughter didn’t immediately comprehend what happened when she didn’t make the squad.
“She didn’t understand even after the coach explained it and I explained it. She just kept repeating ‘I’m on the team!’ " Lisa says of Emmie, who has been involved in cheerleading since kindergarten.
Once Emmie accepted that she wouldn’t be holding pom-poms this season, Sydnee saw her little sister’s mood sour. “I think it didn’t set in until about a week later when we were talking about the upcoming game and she started tearing up,” Sydnee tells PEOPLE.
As Emmie made the team in 4th and 5th grade and spent her summers in cheerleading camp, Lisa says her teenager can pick up a routine quickly just from watching others perform. Plus, her classmates and teachers appreciate Emmie’s cheery resilience.
“She is very well-loved at the school! Her friends encourage her and the faculty loves her school spirit,” Lisa says.
Likewise, the viral video has received plenty of positive feedback on social media. Viewers have flocked to the comments to share their support for Emmie and praise her cheer skills.
One Instagram user looked optimistically ahead, writing, “She’s so good! Maybe next year will be her lucky year to cheer.”
“She SLAYS!! I hope she tries out again,” another encouraging comment read.
Sydnee tells PEOPLE she’s happily surprised by the video’s popularity online. She started posting videos of Emmie on Instagram and TikTok in November 2023, hoping to show the quality of life someone with Down syndrome can have.
“I’ve always wanted to share Emmie’s humor and positivity with others. There are a lot of people who have no exposure or experience with people with special needs and it can make them close-minded. I wanted to give a little piece of Emmie out to the world so those people can see the joy that comes with someone with special needs,” Sydnee says.
Looking beyond her sister’s diagnosis, Sydnee thinks the world can learn a lesson in self-esteem from Emmie’s determination to cheer.
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Read the original article on People.