New Cheerleading Squad Makes Dreams Come True

Filed under: Schools |

“D-H-S, The Best (clap, clap, clap).” That’s the first of many cheers for twelve Duncanville High School special education students. They belong to a new inclusive cheerleading squad called the Duncanville Sparklers, only the fifth of its kind in the state of Texas.

Formed in March 2012, the Duncanville Sparklers are part of the national Sparkle Effect organization. According to its website, the student-run program is aimed at helping those with disabilities experience true acceptance and gain confidence while their high-school partners become passionate leaders that inspire entire communities to embrace inclusion.

Duncanville High School’s squad is made up of twelve special education students paired with four general education partners. DHS varsity cheerleaders conduct each practice, teaching the girls cheers, motions, and jumps. Sponsor Krystal Morrow leads the varsity cheerleaders, but she also leads the high school’s Partners PE program. It too pairs special education athletes with general education partners. Morrow says that she heard about the Sparkle Effect through one of her students and started the DHS squad to encourage more inclusion on campus. “This is my third year leading Partners PE, and I’ve seen a tremendous growth. We started out with one class and now there are three. I wanted to take things to the next level. Plus, several of the girls say that they’ve always wanted to be a cheerleader.”

A dream come true, the Duncanville Sparklers debuted their talents at the Tenth Annual March for Respect on March 31. They’ve also cheered at recent Special Olympics events and practice every other Thursday. Next school year, the Sparklers will cheer at a few football and basketball games as well as a school pep rally. Learning motions, jumps, and their first cheer, the girls are also learning how to be leaders. “We start each practice with ice-breakers,” said varsity cheerleader Colleen Hunt. “I’ll say ‘My name is Colleen, and I’m a Sparkler,’ and then encourage them to do the same thing with confidence.”

An opportunity to do more than just cheer, the Duncanville Sparklers squad is giving students the chance to make new friends and see that it’s ok to be different. “I think just seeing how excited the girls get is the coolest thing,” commented Morrow. “We’ve got their very own custom uniforms ordered, and someone from the Sparkle Effect is going to train them for a few hours in May.”

Smiling from ear to ear as they execute their Vs, High Vs, and Ts, the girls say cheerleading is a lot of fun. “I’ve wanted to be a cheerleader for awhile now,” said Brianna Durham. “I’m excited about the uniform.” “My favorite thing is making a T,” added Shetira Willis. “I’m happy.”

And the varsity cheerleaders are just as happy, knowing that they’re making a difference. “It’s a great program, very rewarding,” said Shannon Daubert. “It’s a great experience. I’m getting to know how to work with different types of people,” added Hunt.