Cheering students with special needs

02/14/2014 12:55 PM

02/14/2014 3:38 PM

Annie George and Madison Scoma enjoy cheerleading.

Annie likes to perform. Madison’s favorite part of cheering is the stunts.

Annie and Madison are part of the Sparkle Team, a squad for Keller district special education students run by cheerleaders at Fossil Ridge High School.

“I like to see my friends in the crowd,” Madison said as the group prepared to cheer for the varsity boys basketball game Feb. 4.

Madison, 17 and Annie, 18, both students at Keller High, are among 14 special education students who participate in KISD’s first Sparkle Team, piloted at Fossil Ridge with the assistance of 19 cheerleaders.

Shelby Bowden, Ridge senior and cheer captain, said she has enjoyed working with special education students, and the Sparkle Team gets a great reception at pep rallies and games.

“Seeing them make a big impact on the school just by performing, it’s cool,” Shelby said.

Hillary White, coach of the Ridge cheerleaders, said her students wanted to sponsor a Sparkle Team after Bowden and other cheerleaders helped special education student Lindsey Miller get elected homecoming queen in September. Last month, a national trainer from the Sparkle Effect ( thesparkleeffect.org), came to help the program get started.

The Sparkle team is open to special needs students from all the KISD middle and high schools.

This winter, students have cheered at several basketball games and pep rallies. White hopes that other KISD cheer squads will start their own Sparkle Teams next fall.

White said that the program benefits both special education and regular education students. Kids with special needs work on counting and motor skills and often improve in self-confidence and the way they relate to others. Cheerleaders learn to care for and include those who are different as they work together.

“They really get attached to their buddies,” White said.

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