Southside Middle School in Florence, S.C. began a Sparkle cheerleading team under the leadership of Kimberly Matthews-Robinson & LaTonya Harley, cheerleading coaches & Miriam Fulghum, exceptional education teacher. “The Sparkle Effect” is an organization that encourages cheer and dance teams to include both students with disabilities and students without disabilities together to form one team: http://www.thesparkleeffect.org/. The Sparkles originated in the state of Iowa because of the realization that school sports often don’t include students with disabilities and therefore lack the social opportunities that other children are given.
Southside’s Falcon Sparkles team practices at least one time a week (up to four times a week for games and special events). The Sparkles cheered this past school year during both football and basketball seasons. They performed at our fall season school wide pep rally and winter pep rally. The Falcon Sparkles also participated in performances in downtown Florence at the Pecan Festival and at a Patriots basketball game halftime at Francis Marion University, Florence, SC.
Southside’s Falcon Sparkle team has brought school-wide awareness and fostered empathy for ALL students. It's an amazing and heartwarming sight to see our middle school student body erupting in cheers and claps for our Sparkles. The team has brought a wealth of physical fitness and social opportunities to our students. The biggest success of The Sparkle Effect at Southside has been seeing the students - those with and without disabilities - become friends and foster positive relationships throughout the school and in the community.
How did students and adults work together as a team?
Although the Sparkle Effect is a student led initiative, there are times when the adults had to facilitate interactions and foster positive relationships. The students made up the cheers. The adults went with the students to Francis Marion University and the Pecan Festival in Florence, SC.
What improvements have you seen at your school?
We have seen an increase of adults, not just exceptional education teachers, regular education teachers, office staff, media staff, and custodial staff having more interactions with our students with disabilities than before this initiative or "play" began. "The Falcon Sparkles" have increased awareness and created more empathy for ALL students in our student body.