Viking Pride shines bright at North Mecklenburg High School cheerleading practice. One of the stars is Zakiya Houser.

“She comes to practice and she’s eager to learn, eager to participate and eager to just cheer every single day,” says Coach Reagan Houston.

The coach says the junior’s positive attitude stretches far beyond her cheers and chants.

“Zakiya is an extraordinary cheerleader and student. She is a leader in and out of uniform. Although is not a captain on my squad she acts as such,” said Houser.

Even though she’s a role model on the squad and in the classroom, it took coach Houston’s nomination for Zakiya to realize it.

“I was just very surprised because I never really noticed that I’m a leader, but for me to be picked for this was very cool. I was very surprised because I never knew this would happen,” Zakiya said.

The cheerleader gives a lot of credit to Coach Houston. “She’s been the best coach I’ve ever had. She really pushed me to the point where I can do this and I can do that. She’s been the best coach of my life,” said Zakiya.

And the feelings are mutual.

“She is really eager to help me. She’s always asking me if there is anything she can do to help. What can we do today so that we can be better than yesterday?" Houston said. "She’s just an all-round positive student and really deserves to be recognized for it."

Zakiya hopes to continue cheering in college with her sights set on Winston Salem State. Beyond that, she said she can see herself becoming an accountant.

The entire North Mecklenburg squad proves you can have discipline and dedication, with a smile.