Contact Us/About Us
Feel free to contact us with any updates, questions, or just to say, "Hi!" And, if you ever earned a letter (or finished out an entire year before letters were awarded) and you'd like to remain part of the group, please send us your contact information and the years you were on the team.
Where to reach us
Rutgers University Spirit Program Alumni
c/o Christine Zoffinger, Head Coach
83 Rockafeller Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854
The Rutgers University Spirit Program Letterwinners Association is a not-for-profit organization that unites alumni with each other and with the current program. The Executive Board and Officers of the Association work to foster these unions as well as raise money to help support the current program and its members.
Mike Stickle, President
Mike Stickle first came to The Banks as the Dance Team Coach in Jan. 1990. He became the Cheerleading Coach in June 1990, but continued to work with the Dance Team along with Dance Team Coach Liz Blacher (Rifino). He served as Head Coach of the Spirit Program from 1994–1997. Mike returned to Rutgers in 2007 to work with the Dance Team, and rejoined officially in Sept. 2010 as Asst. Coach under Christine Zoffinger, the current Dance Team Coach and Head Coach of the Spirit Program. For the 2014-15 year, he's adding Asst. Coach of the Co-Ed Cheerleading Team back to his duties under Lauren Louis, the current Cheer Coach.
In the interim ten years between coaching tenures, Mike worked in the media industry in New York, earning himself Emmy Awards for writing and producing, as well as a Sundance PGA Digital Selection honor.
Mike Stickle founded the Rutgers University Spirit Program Alumni Letterwinners Association in 2012 because he is very proud to be associated with the longstanding traditions of both the University and this program.
Rick Haelig, Vice President
Rick Haelig entered Rutgers as a member of the class of 1991 and earned his first varsity letter as a member of the 1989-90 Co-ed Cheerleaders, who, along with the Dance Team, made their first international performance at the Emerald Isle Classic between the Scarlet Knights and the Pitt Panthers in Dublin, Ireland.
Leaving Rutgers and the Spirit Program the following summer, he relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a carpenter in the Oakland Hills. He returned to Rutgers three years later to complete his degree, rejoining the Scarlet Knights from 1994 to 1996, earning the 1995 Loyal Knight Award, and spending his final year as the Co-Captain of the Co-ed Cheerleaders.
Once again, relocating to California after graduation, Rick spent 12 years in the Alt-Weekly and digital publishing industries, leading sales and operations teams at SF Weekly and at Los Angeles CityBeat, where he was the newspaper’s and website’s founding publisher. In 2008, Rick left publishing to create “Russian Hill Handyman Co.,” an innovative, award-winning general contracting business that he continues to lead in San Francisco.
In 2009, Rick received the “Block R” Award for Alumni Leadership from the Rutgers University Alumni Association for his years of service as the founder and the President of the Rutgers Club of San Francisco from 1999 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2008.
Janet Merlo Cuccaro, Treasurer
Janet Merlo is a proud alumna of the Rutgers University Dance Team. She and her team danced their way into the national spotlight with a first place finish at the 1998 UDA College National Championship. She was also a member of the 1997 second place Nationals team, which was the highest ranking that the team had ever achieved to that point. While a student on The Banks, Janet was a member of the Rutgers College Honors Program as well as Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honors Society. She graduated with honors in 1998 with a Bachelors degree in political science.
Janet pursued a career in the fashion industry after graduating from Rutgers. She worked for Tommy Hilfiger corporate for three years before taking a position with the Jones Apparel Group in Manhattan. She began in sales, working with some of the most profitable retailers in the industry, and then advanced to become the Divisional Sales Manager for her department, a business that grossed $245 million annually. She was also her company’s representative on the Home Shopping Network, and made monthly on-air national television appearances to promote the brand.
Janet married in 2006 and is now raising her two future Scarlet Knights, Elyse and Jonathan, at home in Long Valley, NJ. She remains active within her local community as well as with her Rutgers family.
Avis Clarke Leverett, Secretary
Avis was recruited to Rutgers University by Mike Stickle and joined the Co-ed Cheerleaders in September 1993. She performed with them for two years before leaving to become a Resident Assistant for Rutgers College. Avis rejoined the team for her senior year, during which she served as Captain. Avis graduated from Rutgers in May 1998.
Since leaving Rutgers, Avis has held numerous positions as both a teacher and administrator in both public and private schools. She is now a full-time mom while pursing her doctorate at Temple University.
Jason started his cheerleading career in 1993 as a member of the Colonia High School coed competition squad. His career continued at Rutgers University before being invited by the National Basketball Association to start a crowd-interactive squad called the Fan Patrol.
For nine years, Jason traveled across the United States teaching camps and running competitions as a COA [Cheerleaders of America] State Representative as well as worldwide with the NBA Fan Patrol, entertaining crowds in the tens of thousands.
These experiences are what led Jason to the Philippines where he contributed to the founding of the National Cheerleading Championship, the country’s first and only nationwide cheerleading organization.
Jason’s retired from cheerleading after performing at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
While Jason was in his second year at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, he started his web design company, JasonHunter Design, as a result of a graphic design assignment. He and his team of designers and developers have been designing logos and building websites and mobile apps ever since.
Trixia Camacho Aguila
While pursuing her PharmD at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers University, Trixia kept dance as a major part of her life by joining the RUDT. Amongst the team, she found a group of talented women who shared her passion for dancing at a competitive level — friends who have stayed with her well beyond her college years. Together with her teammates and coaches, they competed at NDA College Nationals for the first time after switching from UDA and returned with 4th place. After her 2nd year on the team, she auditioned for the NY Knicks basketball team and left the Rutgers Dance organization for a year. With her heart still interested in dancing at the collegiate level, she returned the following year for one last dance :) Even though she stopped dancing for Rutgers, her commitment to the team led her to come back and work alongside Christine Zoffinger and Emily Yablonski on the coaching staff.
In 2007, Trixia was awarded her doctorate in Pharmacy and then completed a fellowship at BMS, which launched her professional career in the Pharmaceutical Industry, supporting development of drug candidates for specific cancer types. During this fellowship, Trixia returned to the NBA and danced for the NJ Nets for two years before coaching the Nets dancers for another two years. As a dancer and coach, she was proud to share the court once again with several Rutgers alum.
Still working in the pharma industry, Trixia is now happily married. She and her husband welcomed their first child in June 22, 2013 — TWO DAYS after her last dance class! Although Trixia is no longer dancing/coaching for a team, she cherishes the time she had while on the dance floor and is so thankful for all the lasting friendships.
Regina lives in Brownsburg, IN (a small town west of Indianapolis) with her husband, Jim, and their two children, Dillon and Alexandra. After graduating from Rutgers (Mason Gross) — where she was a two-year member of the Dance Team — she continued to dance with Michael Gary's dance company, Acrodanse. During that time, she also attended the summer school dance program at Harvard University as well as dancing on MTV's dance show "Club MTV." Eventually, she moved back to Indiana to be close to family.
Regina danced 4 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (NFL), was Captain, and represented the Colts in the NFL "Pro Bowl" in Hawaii. After dancing with the Colts, she joined the Indiana Pacemates Dance Team and danced for the Indiana Pacers (NBA) for 2 seasons. Currently, she is a REALTOR® and is the Managing Broker of Carpenter Realtors' Northwest Office in Indianapolis.
Regina actively volunteers with the "Realtor Foundation" (raising funds & awareness for the homeless). And serves as a Board Member & volunteer with the "Maddy Justice 'Keep on Shining' Foundation" (raising funds & awareness for Pediatric Cancer).
Kenny Kolanko entered Rutgers College in the fall of 2003 and became a member of the spirit program as a mascot from 2005 to 2007. In addition to being a mascot, he was also involved with RC New Student Orientation, as well as the Scarlet Key Society (RC tour guides). After graduating in 2007 with a degree in Management, Kenny began working in the Sports Marketing office within Rutgers Athletics.
While working in RU Sports Marketing, Kenny was able to assist the spirit program and help coach the mascots. In addition to an increased number of appearances, this period also saw Rutgers’ first ever mascot entry for nationals, as well as a selection for the 2012 Capital One Mascot Challenge.
Kenny left Rutgers Athletics in 2011 to pursue a Master’s degree in College Student Affairs while working for Rutgers Housing & Residence Life, and also continued to assist the spirit program. After earning his M.Ed. in 2013, he left the New Brunswick campus after ten years on the Banks, and made the short trip up the Turnpike to Newark. Kenny currently works with Rutgers-Newark Housing & Residence Life as an Area Director.
Susan Vietoris Reale
Susan is proud to be an alumna of the Rutgers Co-Ed Cheerleaders from 1992–1996, during which time the team attended the UCA/UDA College Nationals, qualifying for Finals every year. Her favorite college memories include cheering for the Rutgers teams, traveling throughout the country with teammates and coaches, and laughing with friends she knew she'd have for life.
After graduating from Douglass College with a double major in Communications and Women's Studies, Susan worked in the marketing department for Deloitte and Touche in New York City. In 1999, Susan returned to The Banks to work for the Rutgers Foundation, helping with their newly started $500 million Capital Campaign. She again had the opportunity to travel the country representing Rutgers University, this time sharing all it had to offer students and alumni.
Susan is currently living in Warren, NJ with her husband, Andrew, and their three children, who are active, funny, and keep her on the run. Locally, she is a Scout Leader, PTO member, class mom, maid, cook, lifeguard, and chauffeur. Outside of Warren, she is a member of the Rutgers Board of Overseers, as well as an Executive Board Member. She and Andrew created and support two Endowed Scholarships at Rutgers. One scholarship is for football and one is awarded to a female athlete. She is thrilled to be on the newly formed Rutgers University Spirit Program Alumni Letterwinners Board.
Christine Zoffinger was a three-year member of the Rutgers University Dance Team, serving as a captain during her senior year. Having come from a nationally ranked high school cheerleading program, it was no surpirse that she was also on the first-ever Rutgers University Dance Team to compete nationally.
After a short yearlong break after her graduation in 1994, Christine came back into the program as Assistant Coach of the Dance Team for two years, during which the team was first runner up in the College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships in 1997 (as seen on ESPN). The very next year, Christine became the Head Coach of the entire Spirit Program and led the Dance Team to its first ever national title in 1998. Since then, Christine has remained at the helm of both the Spirit Program and the Dance Team.
Christine returned to Rutgers as a student, earning her MBA from the Rutgers University School of Business. She has worked on a number of entrepreneurial efforts and established businesses. She is very active with the Montgomery Township school district, earning the 2014 Founders Day Award.