The 2013 World of Children Award Honorees

Sarah Cronk

The Sparkle Effect, Inc.

Youth Award - 
2013
North America, United States

“I have learned that while having compassion is important, acting on that compassion is critical. You must adopt an unwavering belief that you can and will make a difference.”

About Sarah Cronk

Sarah Cronk grew up watching her older brother, Charlie, struggle to make friends due to his disability. Her brother would often eat alone in the nurse’s office after being turned away from table after table. It wasn’t until a popular swim team captain invited Charlie to sit at his lunch table and encouraged him to join the swim team that his life began to turn around. Sarah was moved to take action when she witnessed Charlie’s confidence soar from this simple act of kindness. She was determined to find a way to include students with disabilities at her high school, who like Charlie, were marginalized and excluded.

Challenge

Over 5 million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States; yet most school sports and activities are not designed to accommodate them. As a result, students with disabilities are often excluded from high school sports and the social opportunities they offer.

Solution

In 2008, Sarah created and coached the nation’s first inclusive cheerleading squad. One year later, she established The Sparkle Effect, Inc. Since its inception, Sarah has generated over 100 inclusive cheerleading and dance teams in middle schools, high schools and colleges across the United States.

UNIFORMS: Students on disadvantaged Sparkle Effect teams will receive free uniforms, giving every cheerleader a sense of confidence, pride, and ownership of their accomplishments.

TEACHER TRAINING: Teen leaders will receive on-site training to develop the confidence and tools they need to maximize their potential for success and instill best practices in their teams.

Impact

Sarah will use World of Children® Award funds to generate an additional 100 inclusive teams, and provide uniforms and on-site teacher training for 2,000 students.


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“The mission of The Sparkle Effect is social inclusion. Cheerleading and dance are merely the vehicles we use to fulfill our mission. Parents of students with disabilities report that participation on a Sparkle Effect team results in better school attendance and higher grades. Moreover, we’ve seen that our participants with disabilities are more likely to eventually join additional school-based extra-curricular clubs, like drama, newspaper, chorus, and band. Why? Because inclusion is not so much an activity as it is a way of thinking.” ~Sarah

Watch an Exclusive Interview of Sarah with Wendy Naugle of GLAMOUR


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