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Cheerer's endurance inspires students

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader Kimberly Kolinski arrived in Tampa in the middle of the night after her team's disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams. Even so, she had agreed months earlier she would attend Pleasant Grove Elementary School's Honor Roll breakfast and address the children.

The former Pleasant Grove student didn't disappoint them.

"What dedication and commitment," said guidance counselor Kristin Johnson. "It meant a lot to us."

Kolinski, 22, was a student at Pleasant Grove the first year the school opened.

"It had opened my fifth-grade year," she said. "It was exciting because it was new."

That year was one of her earliest brushes with fame. The school was conducting a contest for a school logo or mascot, and Kolinski's shining star was the winner. A photo taken of her on the stage in front of the new, shining star still hangs in the hall of her elementary school.

Kolinski is finishing at St. Petersburg Junior College this semester and plans to attend the University of South Florida. She plans to study in the mass communication program and eventually go into public relations, she said.

She is also pursuing the Miss Florida crown. The current Miss Tri-County says she has found her experiences as a cheerleader _ dancing, singing and making community appearances _ helpful in her quest to be Miss Florida and then, hopefully, Miss America.

She encouraged the children at the recent breakfast to work hard for their futures.

"She inspired me 'cause I want to be a singer when I grow up," said Amber Ficquette, an 11-year-old fifth-grader. She was also an inspiration "by telling us we have to follow our dreams. That's what she did, and she got hers."