For Kendra Guajardo, the third time is the charm. Two years ago, the Columbia High School student was invited to take part in the New Year's Day parade in London with a few thousand American cheerleaders, but she was unable to attend. Last year, she had to miss the auditions.
But on Wednesday the 17-year-old boarded a plane at the Tri-Cities Airport to begin her journey overseas for the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) London Tour.
A four-year varsity cheerleader, captain of her school's squad and a top student to boot, Kendra and her family said the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It's kind of a payoff for all the work I've done," she said.
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About 3,000 UCA cheerleaders marched in the parade last year, all of them high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Tryouts for the tour, which include learning dance and cheer routines, are held at camps in the summer. Kendra said four girls were selected at the Columbia High camp this past summer but she was the only one able to attend.
"I've done dance so it was actually really easy for me," Kendra said.
Paying for the trip wasn't quite as easy. Kendra was required to put together more than $4,000 to pay for her airfare and other costs. She couldn't afford to attend two years ago, as her family had only months before sought donations for her older brother Kameron to attend President Obama's inauguration in January 2009.
"We didn't feel like we needed to hit our friends up again," said Shauna Guajardo, Kendra's mother.
Kendra's family ponied up a good chunk of the money needed for this trip, but she also organized yard sales and a barbecue to pay her way.
Logistics also have been a challenge. She had to update her passport and make sure she had enough cash on hand, in British pounds, along with making sure she learned the routine she will perform in the parade and receiving her uniform. The family still was waiting on Christmas Eve to make sure she had a specially issued debit card for the trip.
Kendra said she plans to keep cheering after high school. She's looking at Arizona State University, Washington State University and Eastern Washington University as places where she could study and pursue her passion.
In the meantime, though, she's going to enjoy her trip.