Johnson High School Senior Co-Captain’s Ready for
By Amy Morgan
School started early this year for Johnson High School senior Bella Benfield. As co-captain of the Jaguar varsity cheerleading team, she’s been hard at work all summer preparing Johnson’s 32 cheerleaders for the upcoming season. Co-captain duties include leading the teams through practice, which can include taking over if cheer coach Mandy Martinez is away. Captains call the cheers during football games, run Johnson’s multiple pep rallies, choreograph new routines and mentor underclassmen, including the executive officers (the position in which Bella served last year) and the new freshmen cheerleaders.
Bella has a heart for younger girls. For the past several summers she’s taught the “littles” — pre-k to eighth grade participants — at the annual fundraising Junior Jags camp held in June. The JHS cheerleaders lead the week-long event that culminates with a performance for parents. The older athletes don’t allow the younger girls to stunt without their help, so Bella personally lifted a third grader so she could be standing in the air when she yelled, “Go Jags!” “It was so cute,” Bella enthused. “Everyone loved it! It made all the work worth it.” The cheer squad raised $20,000 for their efforts as well.
Johnson cheerleaders give back to the community in other ways. In September they cook and deliver a spaghetti dinner for firefighters at the three stations closest to the school. “Every day they put their lives at risk,” Bella said. “Spaghetti doesn’t even to do justice for what they do for us.”
Bella’s looking forward to traveling with the team to Nationals at Disney World again this year. Johnson was one of only a small group of teams that made the finals last year in the Gameday category, despite only having one senior on the squad. Bella feels this year is already off to a great start with returning veterans including fifteen upperclassmen.
Bella served as a camp counselor for elementary girls at CBC’s Camp Tejas, which she remembers being her favorite part of summer growing up. She’s as active in CBC’s youth group as she can be as she juggles school, cheer, and part-time work at Christy’s Closet, a local specialty boutique that personalizes items and carries school-spirit themed merchandise.
Bella is part of the JHS student council and National Honor Society, as well as the Stone Oak chapter of the National Charity League, a mother-daughter organization with which she’s logged more than 400 hours of community service – activities included making food for Haven for Hope and helping those in need shop for clothes at SA Threads. She was named the organization’s 2021 Daisy Award winner as the student from the class of 2024 with the most volunteer hours. Bella also has earned both NEISD’s Student and President’s Volunteer Service Awards multiple times, while taking home Cheer honors. She’s received both the National AP Scholar with Honor and the National Hispanic Recognition awards from the College Board. Bella hopes to attend TCU and major in business with a potential career as a sports broadcaster.
The senior credits her work ethic to the values instilled by her parents, both of whom were raised by immigrants. Her mother’s heritage is from Mexico, while her paternal grandmother emigrated from Thailand. Bella noted that her family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal includes tamales and spring rolls. “When I’m in an officer position and I have to make a tough choice for the team, I’ll think about what my parents would do and follow their example,” she said.