19 - Bettendorf, IA
"I was 15 when I started The Sparkle Effect. I had volunteered some, but I was about as involved as any typical 15-year-old. But when I saw my big brother struggling in high school and then his transformation upon being accepted by the swim team, I knew what I had to do."
Sarah grew up watching her older brother Charlie struggle to make friends due to his disability. It wasn't until the popular swim team captain invited Charlie to sit at his lunch table that things began to turn around for him. He encouraged Charlie to join the team, and Sarah watched her brother's confidence soar. Sarah wanted to have the same impact. In 2008, she created and coached the nation's first inclusive cheerleading squad at her high school. A year later, she established her nonprofit, The Sparkle Effect (TSE), a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.
Sarah developed an 11-step Quick-Start kit to make starting an inclusive team easy and fun. She also provides her teams with free uniforms, mentoring, and personal on-site training. The result: students with disabilities experience true acceptance and teens nationwide become passionate leaders that inspire entire communities to embrace inclusion. In its first two years, The Sparkle Effect generated 25 teams
nationwide. Within the last year, the organization has grown to 71 teams in 26 states. Sarah believes that one day soon inclusion will be the norm, and she intends to remain at the forefront of the movement that advocates the recognition and appreciation of people of all abilities.
That's why Sarah is a 2012 Woman of Worth!