• Sarah Cronk, of Davenport, Iowa, founded The Sparkle Effect, which helps high school cheerleading squads include students with disabilities.
  • She plans to talk with WaHi about starting a chapter after she settles in on campus.

Seeing her brother struggle in high school because of his disabilities, Whitman College first-year student Sarah Cronk, 18, got an idea that now has become a $100,000 prize winner.

The Davenport, Iowa, high school cheerleader was selected as the grand prize winner in the “Do Something Awards” program, designed to “honor young people’s commitment to social change.” And her story was presented to a national audience on Aug. 18 on a VH1 telecast.

As reported on Do Something.org: “Sarah watched her older brother Charlie struggle to fit in during high school because of his disabilities. He was depressed and anxious, until the captain of the swim team invited him to join. Suddenly, the cool kids welcomed him, and he found a new group of friends. Inspired by Charlie, Sarah co-founded the first high school-based inclusive cheerleading squad in the nation.”

The Sparkle Effect has generated 27 squads in 15 states and South Africa, encouraging a culture of acceptance in every community. Cronk will use the prize money to expand the program, and she has expressed to Whitman staff that she plans to connect with Walla Walla High School to talk about establishing a chapter.

“Sarah is quite an accomplished student and has made a significant difference in her community as a volunteer,” said Tony Cabasco, Whitman’s dean of admission and financial aid. “She was awarded a Claire Sherwood Scholarship to recognize her leadership abilities and academic achievements. Clearly she is emblematic of the students who will be entering Whitman this fall: academically talented students, passionate leaders, and difference-makers.”

Below are links to two videos of from the VH1 telecast of the awards presentation: (Note – a commercial will run before the video.)


Ruth Wardwell
Assistant Vice President for Communications