At 3 p.m. at Texas’ Duncanville High School, it’s time for cheerleading practice, but this squad is unlike any other. They are the Duncanville “Sparklers.” Each member on the squad is a special needs student at the school.
“We cheer for every person, Genesis Moataned, the Sparklers Squad Captain said. It’s wonderful to do it.” Coach Krystal Morrow, who leads the school’s varsity cheerleaders, heard about the program through Estefania Barron, one of her physical education students.
WATCH THE SPARKLERS IN ACTION HERE
“I said we should do it for the girls so they can be involved in something fun,” Barron said. Barron spent her spring break researching “The Sparkle Effect,” a program that helps schools across the country create cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities.
At Duncanville, Coach Morrow pairs up the Sparklers with members of the varsity squad, like Captain Chelsea Taylor, to help them. “We love working with them, they love working with us, Taylor said. It’s just one big happy family.”
The squad is the fifth of its kind in Texas. “My parents are so excited to see me and I like the squad,” said Hannah Dickerson, a Sparklers cheerleader. Excitement is one way to describe parents of the squad members. “For this to come to fruition the way it has and bringing in the awareness from another student is truly amazing,” Tenna Adams, a parent said.
Their teachers have noticed the difference. “They come out here and they’re totally different, said Elizabeth Thompson, a Duncanville High School special education teacher. They can be outgoing, they can be loud, they can do anything they want, and it’s a totally different environment. They love it.”
The Sparklers will soon be receiving cheerleading uniforms.