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Dolphins cheerleader Jennifer Chang defies odds to walk, dance

By Jim Varsallone
Miami Herald
May 20, 2016

Told by doctors as a youth that she would never walk again, a determined and inspirational Jennifer Chang not only walks but dances and cheers, making the world-renowned Miami Dolphins cheerleading team.

It’s been some journey for the talented young lady.

She and her family (mom, dad, sister) defected from Cuba to Miami 11 years ago. They stayed with her uncle in Palmetto Bay. Assimilating to their new country, she learned a new language while learning to walk again.

Jennifer and her family overcame plenty, sticking together and supporting each other. During the final auditions for the Dolphins cheerleaders on Sunday, May 1, they proudly watched Jennifer make the team.

Final auditions for the 2016 version of the Dolphins cheerleaders were at the Miniaci Theater at Nova Southeastern University in (South Florida) Davie. The practice/training facility for the Dolphins’ football team is across the way.

Residing in Kendall and studying to be a nurse, Jennifer, 20, is a graduate of Palmetto Sr. High School and Miami Dade College.

Of 70 beautiful finalists, she was one of 40 selected for the team. They will attend the Dolphins Cheerleading Training Camp. There are no mandatory cuts at training camp, but if a team member does not attend or can not pick up the cheers/dances, she can be cut.

Twenty of the 70 who qualified for the finals were from other countries. The Dolphins became the first NFL team (and pro sports team) to host auditions internationally, traveling to Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Eleven of the final 40 chosen were from the international auditions.

Dolphins cheerleading summary

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders at the Miniaci Theater at Nova Southeastern University selected 40 lovely and talented women to advance as Training Camp Candidates. These ladies will participate in a seven-week boot camp that consists of workouts, etiquette training, team building, uniform fittings, look development and performance training. Cuts are not mandatory but are possible during training camp.

The 40 were selected from the largest turnout for Miami Dolphins Cheerleader Auditions.

More than 800 ladies registered to be the next Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, as the organization became the first NFL team (and pro sports team) to host auditions internationally, searching for enthusiastic, charismatic and talented women in Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and South Florida to represent one of the most prestigious teams in the NFL.

Respected talent

Jessica and Monica are two women with Miami roots who are firmly planted within the Miami Dolphins Cheerleading infrastructure.

Jessica was chosen for the squad on May 1 for the fifth consecutive year and Monica heard her named called for the fourth time.

Nothing is given. They again earned it.

Just because you were a member of the team the previous year does not automatically grant you a spot for next season’s team. There are no multi-year or guaranteed contacts with NFL cheerleaders. If you want to remain a member of the team, you have to tryout and show well.

Jessica and Monica did just that.

Jessica, a graduate of Ronald Reagan High School in Doral, is a college student.

Monica, a Braddock High School graduate, is a long-time cheerleader. Starting with the Tamiami Colts youth cheer program, she also cheered for Beckham Elementary School, W.R. Thomas Middle School and Braddock. She joined Heidi & Joe’s Dance Center, specializing in hip hop, jazz and tap. A flyer on the cheer team, she took gymnastics as well.

Very beautiful, Monica twice graced the cover of the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar. Her mom, Lily, who cheered from the crowd for her at the audition finals on May 1, is very proud.

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