At a petite 5’3” and with a cheerful smile, it was not a surprise to hear that Alessia Rocha used to be a flyer on her cheerleading team at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Rocha discussed how she fought to be a flyer on the team, and she mentioned that cheerleading was nothing like she thought it would be.
“I thought that cheerleading would be super similar to ballet, and all about flexibility,” she said, regarding her struggles with the sport. “I then found out that it was more like gymnastics. I had to learn things like flipping in the air. I got injured, and the coach was scary.”
However, Rocha insisted it was worth it.
“The adrenaline of competing was amazing. It’s an environment nobody really knows about, because even though it’s a competitive sport, the cheerleaders from the opposing teams are in the stands cheering for you. There’s a lot of positive energy,” she said.
Regardless of the adjustment that she had from ballet to cheerleading, having the skills from being put in ballet classes starting at two years old was a talent she had on her side.
“You’re supposed to start at three years old, but my mom was so excited about me starting that she lied about my age,” she said.
Rocha was born in Canada, where she stayed until she turned four. Her mother and father are both Peruvian, and she spent her formative years in their home country. However, she always spoke English and was surrounded by an environment that made it easy to transition to Canada, and later the United States.
“It didn’t feel like Peru,” said Rocha about the British high school that she attended in Lima.
After graduating at sixteen, she moved to Canada to pursue a two-year CEJEP degree in creative arts, literature and languages from a college in Sherbrooke, a small town in Quebec. There, the lack of a multicultural presence forced her to learn French.
“Everyone there was Québécois from Canada, I felt like the only Latina there,” she said.
Rocha graduated first in her class, and enjoyed the acting component of her courses the most.
“I was an extra in a Québécois film and got to be treated like a star,” she said. “We filmed all night for a week in cheerleading skirts in the freezing cold weather, but it was a fun experience.”
But that was not her sole claim to fame as Rocha also played a role in a short film shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I played the protagonist’s friend. I just had a couple of lines,” she said.
Alessia talked about her past with the ease of someone who had taken the time to do the things she enjoyed, and confidently brought up the fact that she took a year off here and there.
In January of this year, Rocha moved to Orlando. “I was so curious about working for tips,” said Rocha. “I know this sounds weird, but it was my dream job to be a server.”
A self-declared nerd, she always had law school in the back of her mind.
“I thought I would be good at it… I love studying. I like being a student. I’m curious about litigation,” she said.
At 24, Rocha was accepted to the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
“I wanted to live in Florida, and UF is the best law school in Florida,” she said of her choice to come pursue her degree at Levin.
In comparison to McGill, she said that the school spirit at UF was abundant in ways she didn’t think were possible. She said she had always felt as though McGill cared about representing the school and keeping up spirit, but here at UF, the Gator Nation is everywhere.