Year after year, cheerleaders prove that you don’t have to be an adult to change the world. Sarah Cronk, a former cheerleader from Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, is a great example of how cheerleaders can make a difference. In 2009, she created “The Sparkle Effect,” a nonprofit organization that influences high school students across the United States to develop cheerleading and dance teams that bring together students with and without disabilities. The organization has been a success, and Sarah says they have experienced “a stream of small miracles.”
You may remember Pleasant Valley Cheerleaders as the 2008 American School Spirit Award Winners. Going above and beyond in academics, school spirit, and community service wasn’t enough for some of their squad members. Sarah, along with four other members of their squad, formed their own inclusive cheerleading team in their community. The “Spartan Sparklers,” includes members with disabilities ranging from autism to Down syndrome.
The goal of this program is to create teams that give students with disabilities to interact with their peers by becoming a part of the varsity team at school sporting events. On their website, Sarah explains, “Students with disabilities don’t just want to cheer, they want to fit in. They want to stand on the football field and on the basketball court side by side with their peers and show their school spirit.”
By starting The Sparkle Effect, Sarah hopes to reach out not just to cheerleading teams but ultimately to all sports programs in high schools. “We know that this wave of goodness could quickly and easily reach into virtually every high school in the country. We believe that the time has come from high schools nationwide to make more room at the table for students of all abilities.”
The girls are hoping their Sparkle Effect program reaches squads across the country, and this plan could start with YOU and your squad. Are you interesting in becoming involved in The Sparkle Effect? Do you want to learn more about Sarah and Sarah and their plan? Go to the Sparkle Effect website where you will find their story, their contact information, and a Quick-Start Kit to get started with your own program.