A STUDENT from York is heading off to America to cheer lead for England.

Jessica Bilton who is a child studies student at York College is jumping for joy having made it into the England cheerleading team to compete at the ICU Worlds event in Florida, to be held in April.

Jessica, formerly of Vale of York Academy in Clifton, began cheerleading when she was in Year 7 and has coached the sport for the last three years, becoming an assistant coach at the Fantasy Cheer Dance Academy in York this year. Following a competition earlier in the year, she was approached by a UK coach and asked to trial for the national squad. Jessica was amazed to be selected.

She said: “I didn’t ever think I would be chosen to cheerlead for England, and especially for the Florida competition, it really is a dream come true.”

In Florida Jessica will compete in the Para Cheer Freestyle Pom category.

She said: “There are three categories, Pom, Cheer and Hip Hop, and my speciality is Pom. I think most young people associate cheerleading with pom poms, and I love that.”

Alongside her Level 3 Childcare and Education course Jessica also coaches gymnastics at the Ainsty Gymnastics Club in York.

After her studies she aspires to be a play therapist. She said: “I think it is really important for children to participate in sport and play, it keeps them fit and has other positive effects like making friends and having regular, positive social interaction.

"Studying my college course, and whilst on a placement at Happy Jays nursery last year, I have learnt so much about young children’s development - it fascinates me.

"My love of cheerleading and gymnastics has been a positive force in my life and I want to work with young children to give them the same sense of well-being.”

Jessica is hoping to raise funds to enable her to go to Florida to compete. She, and her fellow team mate Niamh Cottle, have set up a Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jessica-bilton-niamh-cottle