Five high schools in Northeast Ohio have a lot to cheer about this season. Lakewood, North Ridgeville, Dover, New Philadelphia, and Midview high schools have all received full sponsorship from The Cleveland Browns Foundation to support Sparkle Effect inclusive cheer teams! On Sparkle Effect teams, students with and without disabilities perform as one team throughout football and basketball season.
Sparkle Effect teams address an important challenge facing America's schools: over five million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States; yet, most school sports and activities are not designed to accommodate these students. Not surprisingly then, students with disabilities are often sidelined -- excluded from school sports and the critical social opportunities they offer.
As Sparkle Effect teams 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.
This summer, Sparkle Effect staff members traveled to the Cleveland area to provide on-site training to the established Sparkle Effect teams at Lakewood and Dover as well as the newly formed teams at New Philadelphia and Midview! During training, each team established best practices and provided student leaders with the confidence, sense of responsibility, and motivation necessary to achieve the highest level of success. Ultimately, training activates a chain reaction that continues throughout the lifespan of the team: teammates with and without disabilities discover more similarities than differences and set an example that invites their entire school to embrace acceptance and inclusion as core values.
With youth development and giving back to Northeast Ohio at the heart of Browns Give Back, The Cleveland Browns Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Browns Give Back, supports local Sparkle Effect Teams through a financial grant to outfit, train and sustain new inclusive cheerleading teams within the area. The Foundation hopes that its support of Sparkle Effect teams will serve as inspiration to other professional sports foundations to encourage and fund inclusive sports programming. Browns' sponsored Sparkle Effect teams will have the opportunity to cheer for local youth football teams during tonight's half time performance and show Browns' fans their spirit and commitment to diversity and kindness.
This year, fans will also be able to see Sparkle Effect teams during the first quarter of their school's home football and basketball games. The partnership between the Browns Foundation and The Sparkle Effect serves as an excellent example of the power of athletics to positively transform communities. As the Sparkle Effect's mission makes clear, "Inclusion is not so much an activity as it is a way of thinking. The Sparkle Effect has the potential to reach every school in the country – when it does, game night in America will never be the same."
Shelley Becker, the adviser for the new Sparkle Effect team at New Philadelphia High School had this to say about The Sparkle Effect team and the Browns' sponsorship:
A Sparkle Effect team has been a dream of our cheer program for a couple of years. Getting the opportunity to make that dream a reality has been amazing! We have already had so much support from our administration, students, and community -- and the season hasn't even started! It has been a great addition not only to NPHS but the community as well. We are thrilled to start this new team and having The Cleveland Browns Foundation sponsor us has been the icing on the cake!
After seeing the success of our rival district's squad in their first year and hearing about the support from the Browns Foundation, NPHS is excited to be a part of The Sparkle Effect and The Cleveland Browns Foundation. Having the support of the Foundation is giving our cheerleaders opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. We are excited to cheer on our athletes and make new friends along the way. We look forward to spreading inclusion in our community as well as building our relationship with the Cleveland Browns Foundation. GO QUAKERS!
ABOUT BROWNS GIVE BACK:
The Browns Give Back to Northeast Ohio with a commitment to education and youth football while engaging the community through the team's signature First and Ten volunteer movement. For more information, visit www.clevelandbrowns.com/brownsgiveback.
A core focus area of Browns Give Back is education, and its philanthropic arm, the Cleveland Browns Foundation, supports this mission through financial grants and other resources to local, education non-profits to ensure youth in Northeast Ohio receive the education and development they need as a foundation for independence and success. The Cleveland Browns Foundation has identified three areas of impact – school attendance, early learning and college and career readiness – with the goal of identifying opportunities, removing barriers and providing support for students to empower them for long-term success.