The roar of the crowd is amplified, the venue is larger, even the sport is different for University of Detroit Mercy dancer turned Detroit Lions cheerleader Mackenzie M. ’17.
But there’s one thing in Mackenzie’s life that has remained consistent – her passion for helping others.
“My whole life, I have enjoyed helping people,” she said.
Mackenzie’s passion for helping others started small – from assisting teachers in grade school to simply holding the door for someone in need – but blossomed during her time at Detroit Mercy where she was exposed to Jesuit and Mercy values. She now gives back through her community-involvement opportunities with the Detroit Lions and career as a nurse.
“The value of service that Detroit Mercy really emphasizes helped me and helped mold my career as a nurse,” Mackenzie said. “I really make it a point in my career and daily life to serve our population. It’s really important to me to help those who are less fortunate.”
Interest becomes career
Mackenzie’s interest in nursing was piqued in high school through a medical careers program. Shadowing someone in the field for several hours per week in a hospital’s birthing center and witnessing a cesarean section helped her know nursing is what she wanted to do, according to a Detroit Lions cheerleader spotlight video.
“I was able to go into the hospital and really see the impact that small things can have on people who are in vulnerable situations,” Mackenzie said. “That really fueled my career as a nurse.”
Attending Detroit Mercy to study nursing just made sense for Mackenzie.
She was quite familiar with the University’s McAuley School of Nursing – several family friends had gone through the program and vouched for the quality of education Detroit Mercy offers. Small-class sizes offering individualized attention was another appealing trait in her journey from a student to professional.
“I knew nursing school would be tough, and having professors and classmates that I could connect with in smaller-class sizes was really appealing to me,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie graduated from Detroit Mercy in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and now works as a registered labor and delivery nurse in the birthing center of a local hospital. She works with pregnant women admitted into the hospital, guides new mothers through labor and takes care of their newborns.
“My favorite thing about my job is getting to bring new life into this world,” Mackenzie said. “That is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, and being part of peoples’ birth journeys and labor experiences is really, really special to me.”
Lifelong love to a ‘dream come true’
Dance has been a fixture in Mackenzie’s life since she was 3. She started with tap dance and danced through high school, according to a Detroit Lions cheerleading spotlight video. After high school, Mackenzie continued to be involved in dance, spending her entire collegiate career as a member of Detroit Mercy’s dance team.
Sporting the Titans’ red, white and blue, Mackenzie cheered on the University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and performed routines for the Calihan Hall crowds from 2013-17. She formed lasting relationships with teammates and coaches throughout those four years, and looks back on Detroit Mercy’s Homecoming basketball games with fondness.
Most of all, though, she’s grateful for the opportunity to continue dancing throughout college.
“I danced my whole life and I was really lucky to continue that in college,” Mackenzie said.
But Mackenzie’s journey with the performing art and sports wasn’t about to end at Detroit Mercy. The four years she spent performing along Calihan Hall’s baseline proved to be monumental in opening another door.
In March 2019, Mackenzie auditioned to be a Detroit Lions cheerleader. The two-day process featured freestyle dances, choreography and a job interview.
After making the audition cut, Mackenzie went through training camp – “just like the football players do,” she said – and was ready for her first NFL game day inside Ford Field.
The experience thus far has been a “dream come true,” Mackenzie said.
“Each game day, I wake up and still can’t believe that I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said. “It really just makes me feel so blessed to be able to perform at such a large scale, and to be an ambassador to the city of Detroit, the Detroit Lions cheerleaders and Detroit Lions brand.”
Mackenzie juggles her career and side gig with ease. Time management is key, she says, and her time at the University helped prepare her for the balancing act.
“I definitely stay busy, but I love it. That’s what I’m used to,” Mackenzie said. “In college, I was involved in Alpha Phi Omega – the service fraternity – the dance team and lots of other extra-curricular activities.
“I’ve always been one to stay busy and that’s what I like. Just making sure I have a planner and am writing down all of my events. It’s really just the time management, and I have a great support system at home. That helps as well.”
Fulfilling her passion
The Detroit Lions Cheerleaders website is filled with photos and introductory videos, allowing fans to “meet the squad.” Each cheerleader is featured with a headshot and biography page. Several get-to-know style questions are asked – from “nickname” to “dream job” – but the last one stands out: “greatest passion.”
“Helping people. I strive to make a different in people’s lives, even if it’s just for a moment,” her answer reads.
Whether it’s through her career as a nurse, community-involvement opportunities with the Detroit Lions or simple, kind-hearted gestures, Mackenzie finds a way to help others.
“Fulfilling that passion is really important to me,” she said.
The Detroit Lions Cheerleading organization does not give out personal information on its cheerleaders to protect their privacy. That is why this story does not use her last name.