Not only is her inspiring project, The Sparkle Effect, a growing success – but now she just the won the $100,000 grand prize in the Do Something Awards, a prize honoring young people’s commitment to social change.
The Sparkle Effect is a student-run program that encourages teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in high-school cheerleading programs. What was originally a local effort has now grown into what Sarah told Do Something is a “crusade.” The Sparkle Effect currently helps support 27 squads in the U.S. – even one in South Africa.
On the program’s website, interested participants can find a “Quick-Start” Kit, which includes fundraising ideas, tips for successful practices and more. Sarah’s organization helps in other ways too, such as helping provide free uniforms and even free on-site training. Her ultimate goal: 100 high school-based cheerleading squads that include students with disabilities.
Of course, it’s been a lot of work. “When I first created The Sparkle Effect, I had enthusiasm, passion, and a website that included all of the tools necessary for other teens across America to duplicate the success of our Sparkles’ program. What I didn’t have was money,” she tells Ypulse, a website for Gen Y media makers. “This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Without funds, I was forced to come up with creative ideas for getting the word out about The Sparkle Effect.”
She became her own publicist, talking to national sports and volunteer organizations, as well as disability-focused groups. Eventually, she even appeared in People magazine and on Oprah. She told Ypulse the support she got was “both humbling and awe-inspiring.”
Sarah found out about that she won the Do Something Award on August 18, 2011 – while on stage with host Jane Lynch and four other amazing finalists. They included a young man focused on providing sports, art, and other opportunities for refugee children, and another activist who founded a program to collect food from people who are moving and deliver it to families in need. “These young people give me hope that our future is in good hands,” Lynch said during the ceremony.
In the Ypulse interview, Sarah gives lots of advice for teens who want to get involved and make a difference – so be sure to check out the full version online. We were particularly touched by this inspiring insight: “Never be afraid to be totally excited about your work. The world needs more unbridled enthusiasm. Enthusiasm generates all kind of positive energy and leaves little room for ego.”
We dare you to watch the video of Sarah accepting her award without getting goosebumps!
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