By TRAVIS MORSE
WALTONVILLE — —
For Deon Allen of Chicago, being on the Jesse White Tumbling Team is a challenging yet deeply rewarding experience.
To perform with the team, members have to practice their routines daily and stay in peak physical condition. Plus, they have to maintain a minimum “C” average in school.
“You have got to keep up with your work ethic,” said Allen, a college student who has been on the team for 11 years. “We get to travel a lot so it is a very great experience. We go all over the world. I've been to so many places and I get to experience so many different backgrounds.”
Allen was one of 17 Tumblers who visited Waltonville High School Friday afternoon to perform for the students.
The show – which featured an impressive array of flips, high jumps, and other acrobatic stunts – was very well received by the estimated 340 Waltonville students in attendance. The cheering crowd included pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, along with about 50 parents.
Superintendent Shlonda Horton said Friday's show was the first time the Tumblers had been to Waltonville.
“I think it was an awesome experience for our students to get to witness such talent,” Horton said. “I think they loved it. One of my teachers came up to me and said that was her favorite assembly ever.”
Jesse White, who has been the Illinois Secretary of State since 1998, introduced the Tumblers Friday before the high-flying stunts began.
He said he's very proud of what his team has accomplished since its formation in 1959. White created the team as a way to prevent juvenile delinquency and keep kids away from gangs, drugs, and other negative influences.
“My mission is to help young people to grow tall and straight,” White said. “We're proud of the fact that out of our 13,500 young people that we've had within the 53-year period of time, at last count only 115 have gotten themselves in trouble with the law. It's been able to combat juvenile delinquency.”
The Jesse White Tumbling Team currently has over 300 members who perform in seven different units. The team puts on more than 1,500 shows each year at major sporting events and at various community, business, and charity functions.
In the past, the Tumblers have performed at NFL and NBA games, as well as at MLB games. The team has also been featured in commercials and the movies “Ferris Buehler's Day Off” and “Heaven is a Playground.”
Team member Jacob V. Robinson of Chicago, who also performed at Waltonville Friday, said the program provides a wealth of benefits.
“It's a good way to stay in shape and also it helps you stay focused on your academics, too,” Robinson said.