This 18-year-old from Bettendorf, Iowa, knows that
cheerleading is a great opportunity to get involved at school, make friends and
build confidence. She began
spreading the cheer magic three years ago when she helped create the Spartan
Sparkles, a cheerleading squad based out of her high school that includes
students with disabilities. Since
then, she also co-founded The Sparkle Effect, a program that helps students at
schools across the nation create similar squads.
Every girl deserves the chance to sparkle and shine, and
nobody understands that better than Sarah Cronk.
Sarah has been recognized for her amazing volunteer
work. On May 2, 2011, she was
named a national honoree at a ceremony for the Prudential Spirit of Community
Awards in Washington, D.C., an annual event that honors students for
outstanding community service.
That honor makes her one of America’s Top 10 Youth Volunteers for
We caught up with Sarah to talk about The Sparkle Effect,
her inspiration, and how you can get involved.
GL: How did
The Sparkle Effect get started?
Sarah: In the summer of 2008, I helped to form
the nation's first high-school based cheerleading squad including students with
disabilities, the Spartan Sparkles. After witnessing the profound impact the
Sparkles had on my school and community, I knew that the magic of the program
could easily reach into every high school in the country. So, in the spring of
2009, I formed The Sparkle Effect.
have you accomplished so far?
Sarah: So far, Sparkle Effect squads have been
started in 26 schools across the U.S. and one in South Africa. I have raised
$40,000, which has helped provide uniforms to 18 of our squads. Last summer, I
logged over 1,600 miles to provide training to squads in Iowa, Nebraska,
Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
GL: How have
your friends or family helped?
Sarah: My family has been extremely
supportive. My older brother, who has disabilities, has been my biggest
inspiration throughout this process. Seeing how social inclusion impacted his
life made me want to give inclusive opportunities to other teens with
disabilities. My parents have also been very helpful. My dad helps me handle
the business aspects of The Sparkle Effect and my mom helps me stay organized
so I can continue to balance The Sparkle Effect, my school work and my social
GL: What are
your hopes for this project in the future?
Sarah: I hope that The Sparkle Effect reaches
every school in the nation. If I can't do that, I want to create at least 100
squads. Either way, when I am done, game night in America will never be the
have you learned from your volunteer work?
Sarah: Through my volunteer work I have
learned two things: First, as teens, we are powerful beyond measure. We have
the power to positively impact the lives of other young people and, in doing
so, raise the spirits of an entire nation. Second, the more we give, the more
we get. By enriching the lives of our peers, we enrich our own lives. No one is
better positioned than we teens are to send the simple and powerful message:
It's cool to care.
GL: Who or
what inspires you?
Sarah: I am inspired when I hear from or visit
cheerleaders and parents involved in Sparkle Effect programs in their schools.
Until I began visiting Sparkle Effect squads last summer, I didn't fully grasp
that The Sparkle Effect is doing more than creating inclusive cheer squads. It
is creating compassionate teen leaders who are stepping up, creating squads and
transforming communities in the process. When I see that other cheerleaders,
students with disabilities and communities are experiencing the spirit of
inclusion, I am motivated and inspired to do more.
advice do you have for girls who want to help others?
Sarah: Go for it! There are a million ways to
get involved, and there is nothing more rewarding than finding your passion and
making a difference. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. When you give to
others, people are very willing to help you in return.
GL: How can
other girls get involved in The Sparkle Effect?
Sarah: If you feel like your school would
benefit from a Sparkle Effect squad, or if you know someone who may be
interested in starting a squad, please check out our QuickStart kit at www.TheSparkleEffect.org!
Get involved today to help us spread the Sparkle and spread the magic!
For more information on The Prudential Spirit of Community
Awards and how to apply, CLICK
BY MARIE HANSEN ON 8/7/2011 12:00:00 AM
POSTED IN disabilities, Get Inspired, Aug/Sept 2011