Two Houston High teachers saw an opportunity under the Friday Night Lights for their students. Melissa Gray, alternative school teacher, and Evelyn Wells, a paraprofessional, began Houston High School’s first chapter of the Sparkle Effect called the Sparkle Mustangs, a mixed abilities cheerleading squad. Students with and without disabilities join one another to cheer on the home team at sporting events.
The Sparkle Effect is a national organization that offers guidance and support to those wishing to begin a squad in their area. They currently have over 180 teams registered in 30 states.
In its first year, the team at Houston High School garnered a lot of interest. Seven students with disabilities joined up with seven typical peers from the competitive cheer team. In addition, they also have two student managers, non-cheerleaders, to support the girls.
Click here to watch this great story by CW30 on the Sparkle Mustangs
“As students with and without disabilities cheer together under the Friday night lights, they showcase a loud and public symbol of acceptance, forever changing a school’s culture to one that values diversity and kindness. The students on Sparkle Effect teams visibly relay a simple message: at our school, all students are respected and included, regardless of ability,” explains a spokesperson for the Sparkle Effect.
In a heartfelt letter written by Sheila Wright, the grandparent of one of the participants on Houston’s Sparkle Mustangs, she tells Principal Kyle Cherry how the experience has made a real difference in her granddaughter’s life:
...One cannot begin to imagine the pride and promise the parents of The Sparkle Mustangs felt at the football game Friday night, when our girls stepped out beside the Varsity Cheerleaders to cheer. It was even more amazing how the cheerleaders joined them, left their group and walked over to cheer with them. The whole scene was surreal for us. It was a sight we never thought we would experience.
Cheerleading is something that all little girls grow up wanting to be one. The Germantown Municipal School District, Houston High School, you, your other administrators, Melissa Gray and Evelyn Wells made this happen. I don’t know if you realize how significant this is to the “special needs” community...
The results are clear. The Sparkle Mustangs have brought a real spark to this year’s football season.