Ohio University Sparkles

Photo courtesy of: Jordyn Zimmerman

Ohio University Sparkles

Photo courtesy of: Jordyn Zimmerman

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Innovative cheer team joins Ohio University

Ohio University Sparkles is one of OHIO’s newest student organizations. This inclusive spirit squad connects students with and without disabilities. Its goal is to not only raise school spirit, but to also increase public acceptance of individuals with disabilities, particularly on the OHIO campus.

OHIO's Sparkles is modeled after The Sparkle Effect, a nonprofit organization that influences high school students nationwide to develop cheerleading and dance teams that bring together students with and without disabilities. It was started by Sarah Cronk after she saw her younger brother, who has developmental delays, being excluded at school. The Sparkle Effect currently has 180 teams in 29 states. Sparkles at Ohio University continues the mission of The Sparkle Effect. The team is open to all OHIO students, both male and female, as well as local community residents with disabilities between the ages of 10-25.

“We believe that when everyone cheers, everyone wins,” said Jordyn Zimmerman, president of Ohio University Sparkles. “One of our goals is to set up opportunities that allow the student body to embrace inclusion as a core value. We also want to create opportunities for those with disabilities to engage in social activities through our community,” she said.

The cheer team recently made an appearance at an OHIO men’s basketball game, which gave them the opportunity to be recognized at halftime. Next year, the team hopes to do halftime performances or find a space on the sidelines along with the University's cheer and dance teams.

OHIO's Sparkles also participated in the University Programming Council (UPC) Mom’s Walk on Saturday, April 1st. This event was part of Ohio University’s Mom’s Weekend. “When we finished with our cheers, everyone in the room applauded incredibly loud,” said Kinnedy Kuhn, treasurer of Ohio University Sparkles. “I remember [one of the girls] leaning over to me and saying, ‘the crowd loved us.’ Afterwards, the girls were all happy and more outgoing. You could tell they were proud of themselves.”

According to Student Accessibility Services (SAS), there are currently 1,025 students with disabilities on campus as of the 2016-2017 academic year. Like Ohio University Sparkles, SAS strives to serve these students. SAS provides accommodations such as assistance with note taking, extended time for test taking, materials in alternate formats, priority registration, peer tutoring and more.

Ohio University Sparkles welcomes any student with a disability who is interested in raising school spirit or connecting with other peers. Students without disabilities can also join as mentors.

For more information on Ohio University Sparkles, contact Jordyn Zimmerman at jz686616@ohio.edu. For more information on The Sparkle Effect, www.thesparkleeffect.org. Visit www.ohio.edu/uc/sas/ to learn more about its resources and services.