In Conversation: Athlete and Her Mentor


G’azelle Dewitt-Henderson, a Berkeley High School (BHS) junior in Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), is a member of the cheer team. Dewitt-Henderson sat down with Tiffany Sutherland, the BHS cheer coach and Dewitt-Henderson’s female role model in sports, for a conversation about mentorship and growth.

SUTHERLAND: I’ve always liked cheer. So when I had the opportunity to put one of my daughters into cheer, that’s when I was like ‘Yeah, I want to coach this.’

DEWITT-HENDERSON: I just like being loud. I like making noise. And the community was here. I like how everyone’s nice, and how Tiff brings everyone together.

S: We try to make it like a family.

D-H: Even though we may have our ups and downs, at the end of the day, we all know that if anything happens, we will all be there for each other. Knowing that is a reward. Knowing Tiff is there for you is a reward. You can come to her office if you need to talk or if you’re feeling down; if you’re not feeling good you can come to Tiff.

S: G’azelle’s a junior this year, but I can literally remember her when she came to cheer clinic. We host a cheer clinic a week or two before tryouts to get the 8th graders and other people that have never cheered before to come in and see what cheer is really about. So I remember G’azelle coming in her spring of 8th grade year to try out. She was so shy. Watching her grow from her freshman year to her junior year, I’ve noticed the maturity. That right there is just rewarding.

D-H: I wanna give Tiff a thank you, because Tiff helped with my attitude in school. You know, she’s like a cheer mom. I feel like it is important to have [a role model].

S: Let me try to think… Who did I look up to? Growing up, even in my adult years now, [I think of] Bennet Williams, who was an administrator here at Berkeley High. She actually was a cheer coach as well. She’s taught me a lot about how to use my patience, my leadership skills in other ways, so that definitely helped me when it came to coaching.

D-H: I like how you carry yourself and how you’re always in a positive mood. That’s a role model for me! You’re always happy; you’re always making sure everyone’s good and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

S: Many times, you guys don’t even know what’s in you, so I try my best to pull it out. I want to make sure you’re bringing all of yourself out, regardless of whether it’s in cheer or in a classroom, or if it’s just you being on leadership here. I just feel like if I don’t help you pull out the best in you, then who’s gonna do it?