Cheers, jumps, kicks and sparkles


Gillian Holte/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Sparkles Squad practices their cheers. Sparkles Squad is an all inclusive cheer/dance team that promotes school spirit and inclusion within campus.

Mary Valentine

When asked why people should join Sparkles Squad, Lauren Grace’s answer was concise.

“To smile a lot and be happy,” Grace said.

Sparkles Squad is an Iowa State organization consisting of 38 Iowa State and non-Iowa State members, especially inclusive to girls with disabilities. The squad practices and performs cheers at various sporting events but is centered around friendship and inclusion.

Sparkles Squad at Iowa State is a section of a larger organization called The Sparkle Effect.

The Sparkle Effect’s motto is “leading the social inclusion revolution: one school, one team, one student at a time.” Sparkles Squad enacts this motto as a practice on Iowa State’s campus.

“Our strongest thing that we push is inclusion,” said Savannah Farner, Sparkles Squad captain and senior in child, adult and family services. “We are constantly reminding people that we are all on the same page, we’re all equals, there’s no one that is above the other.” 

This is Farner’s fourth year in Sparkles Squad, and her third year being captain. She said throughout her years involved, she’s gained a deep love for the squad.

“It is my favorite thing in the whole world,” Farner said. “These girls come in here screaming every week, they are so excited to be here.” 

One thing the squad emphasizes is a linguistic prescription called people-first language. Instead of saying ‘the autistic girl,’ we say ‘the girl with autism,’ Farner said.

“That kind of re-emphasizes that they’re a person before anything else and we just try and use any way that we can to level the playing field and not put anyone with any form of a disability to a disadvantage,” Farner said.

The team creates an environment that focuses on friendship, encouraging all members to be themselves and have fun.

“It’s important not to point out the disabilities, but more of the abilities,” said Hannah Morrow, freshman in Open Option (LAS). 

The squad exercises this in everyday life and at their weekly practices. They start practice by sitting in a circle and talking about their weeks. Then, they practice jumps, cheers, kicks and finally end practice with a game and a dance party.

Lucy Logger, 26, made her way to the front of the room to enthusiastically demonstrate a jump for the squad.

“I really like High School Musical a lot,” Logger said at the beginning of practice.

She brought her hands to her cheeks in excitement when “We’re All in This Together” came on as the last song of their dance party at practice and danced around the room with her friends.


This past fall, Sparkles Squad performed on the field at the Homecoming football game.

“My favorite part of Sparkles is that I get to go into the football stadium,” said Grace. “It’s big and every time you’re close to the football players, they are big!” 

This is Grace’s fourth year involved in Sparkles Squad. 

“I’ve made a lot of new friends here at Sparkles,” said Maegan McColley, 26. “It makes me feel really happy and good about all of us with disabilities. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not if you still join, it’s fun for everyone.”