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    Cheerleaders Extraordinaire – Iowa’s Spartan Sparkles

    Date: 11.30.09 | by Judge Tom.

    At Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, Iowa, several varsity cheerleaders created a squad for children with disabilities. Ten girls from 8 to 15 years old, with special needs from autism to Down Syndrome, practice twice a week with volunteer cheerleaders. The Spartan Sparkles squad is student-led and fully integrated into the school’s sports program.

    Started in 2008 by 17-year-old Sarah Herr, the Sparkles cheer at varsity football and basketball games. In March, 2009, they brought home the gold at the Mid-Winter Special Olympics at the University of Iowa.

    Practice includes having fun while learning new skills. Cheerleading requires aerobic stamina, strength, balance, rhythm and flexibility. Games to help the girls count and stay on the beat are part of practice.

    From the Sparkle Effect Home Page

    Community and school support has resulted in the creation of “The Sparkle Effect.” Co-Founders of the organization, Sarah Herr and Sarah Cronk, seek to spread the program to as many of the nation’s high schools as possible. As of 2010, the program has spread to 17 high schools nationwide with a goal of 100.

     The Sparkle Effect is a non-profit group that offers a Quick-Start Kit,  guidance, peer mentoring, and online tools to enable high school students to create their own cheer squad. Take a look at www.thesparkleeffect.org for more information and to contribute to this great organization.

    On the Sparkles web site www.spartansparkles.com you can also view videos of the squad’s performances and recognition on the websites of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

    Some of the many testimonials given the girls include:

    “It really has helped Emily feel she’s a part of the student body. This has definitely helped her gain more confidence. It makes all things possible for her.”  Ed Finn

    “You all gave these girls an opportunity to be a part of something that was never open to them before, and you demonstrated for the world how we ALL benefit and learn from embracing differences.”  Mary Johnson

    [Quotes from spartansparkles.com]

    Logo of TheSparkleEffect.org

    Update: Sarah Cronk, one of the founders of The Sparkle Effect, won the 2011 Do Something Award. The program has grown to 26 squads in 15 states and one in South Africa. Congratulations Sarah! What an accomplishment!

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Chrystal
      Mon, 28 Jun 2010 at 01:42

      So your telling me that Iowa is full of that type of people? WOW that makes me want to move there and start a family is there some thing in the water or in the air that makes Iowa produce more Down-syndrome than other states? you wilt see me moving there to start a family any time soon hope others considering Iowa for a place to raise a family read this article and avoid this state!!!!!!!!!
      Dear Chrystal: You seem to be missing the point of the story. Although we do not have any research on the percentages of Down Syndrome children in each state, it is unlikely that Iowa has a higher than average number compared to other states. However, this cheerleading squad is committed to the cause and doing its part in their community as Down Syndrome and special needs children are present in all communities which don’t always have the services necessary to provide for these children. They are also spreading their good work to other states in support of these children. We commend the Sparkles for their service and contribution to their community.
      [This is information only – not legal advice].

    • Askthejudge.info
      Tue, 23 Aug 2011 at 11:54

      Founder of @SparkleEffect which creates cheer squads that include students with disabilities wins @DoSomething award. http://t.co/uipCxXs

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