Lifestyle

Kandyce found a new life on the cheer squad

  - Wesley Remmer/ staff photo
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/ staff photo

Kandyce Alvear grasped for answers when her mother, raising three children, was diagnosed with cervical and breast cancer. She didn’t know what to think when her younger sister underwent brain surgery and doctors cut open her spine. Then her family was evicted, twice, from homes in the south side of Chicago.

When people asked Alvear why she got into fights at school, parties and on the streets, she had no answer.

“If you went back to my old high school and asked about me, you wouldn’t hear anything good,” said Alvear, 18, a graduating senior at Bremerton High School. “I was such a bad kid.”

After being suspended from school more times than she can remember, failing most of her classes and running with a crowd she could only call “bad,” Alvear was sent to Bremerton upon her mother’s request to live with her stepfather. Less than two years later, Alvear believes it was the best move she ever made.

“Thank God nothing happened to me and I got a second chance,” Alvear said. “I’ve seen some crazy things, so I’m just happy to be alive.”

Alvear came to Bremerton with her brother, Derek Krouse, a sophomore, in November 2009. She turned out for the Bremerton cheer squad, made the team and made a deal with herself that she’d turn her life around.

As a member of the team, Alvear cheered during football season, basketball season and also during what is called the “competitive” season, when teams vie for entrance to the season-culminating state championships. Bremerton qualified in 2009 and 2010.

Coach Kara Lindberg, who ran the program at Bremerton for three years and recently moved to Central Kitsap High School, said Alvear was quiet and shy and reserved when they first met.

But as Alvear got to know her teammates and coach, and trust was established, the 18-year-old came out of her shell and emerged as a team leader. Alvear was voted Most Inspirational Player at the end of this season.

“I have coached a lot of kids, but I don’t know if any of them had the kind of affect she had on me,” Lindberg said. “To have a student say, ‘This isn’t me, I’m going to do more with my life,’ it just makes you feel so fortunate. I’m lucky to have met her.”

Alvear feels lucky, too. She will be the first in her family to attend college.

She still speaks to her mother, who is coming to graduation, and she encourages her siblings to pursue what makes them happy. In September she will begin classes at Washington State University, hoping to begin a career in the medical field.

Alvear also will be the keynote speaker at Bremerton’s graduation.

One message she’ll be sure to include:

“It’s never too late to turn things around.”

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