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'Sparkle Effect' helps Manchester cheerleading squad shine

Published: Feb. 11, 2016 at 10:29 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2016 at 11:18 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The Manchester High School cheerleading squad is shining this year, and it has everything to do with the "Sparkle Effect."

The program helps unite special needs students with cheer and dance teams across the country and here in Central Virginia. Seven girls with varying abilities have joined the Lancer squad as part of the Sparkle Effect. They have a "buddy" that helps through practice and looks out for them.

"I really like doing all of the stunts and cheers with my friend Lexi," 15-year-old Madison Hall says.

After weeks of practice and several games, the Manchester Varsity Cheerleaders were in full effect.

"They're so much more than friends or teammates, it's like a family," cheerleader Kylah Stirrup explains.

But, if you think this program is about pairing girls up, only to have them walk away at the end of the season, think again. For buddies, like Katelyn and Kimmie, a new friendship has been born.

"They asked me to walk with her when she graduates and of course, I started crying," Kimmie's buddy, Katelyn Pendleton, says. "I just love her and her family and everything that this program has done."

Initially, the thought was the "Sparkle" cheerleaders would get a chance to meet to new people and do something they've never done before, but the girls say that's not the only thing happening here. "We're compassionate about it, and I feel like these girls teach us a lot more than we could ever learning doing anything else," Sparkle captain Isa Rubinos says.

And, in the process of breaking barriers, these teens say it has made the squad and even the student body closer. "It's really mixing our school and bringing Manchester how it's supposed to be bringing everyone together as a big family. As the Lancer family," cheerleader Victoria Austin explained.

The coach says this may be the first season of the "Sparkle Effect" at Manchester, but it won't be the last.

She says Manchester is joining other Chesterfield schools, like Cosby High and Swift Creek Middle's dance team, which already have the program.

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