The 2022 football Sparkle Cheerleaders for Media Day. (Mrs. Heather Ambrus)
The 2022 football Sparkle Cheerleaders for Media Day.

Mrs. Heather Ambrus

A Look Into Sparkle Cheerleading

As the Sparkles enter their 12th year at MHS, Cardinal Nation wanted to know what the program is all about

September 19, 2022

You may have seen them cheering at games, on Media Day, or even on the Cleveland local news. The Mentor High School Sparkle Cheer team is constantly spreading joy and sharing the spirit of inclusion. They are in alliance with Generation Spirit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together students with and without disabilities to create inclusive environments for all.

The Sparkle Cheerleaders are made up of students with and without disabilities, aged from elementary to young adult, with the youngest cheerleader being 10 and the oldest being 21. They cheer at home football games, home basketball games, Media Day, Velosano Trike and Bike, and the homecoming assembly. They recently supported the volleyball team for their game fundraising for NAMI, and in the past have been part of Kick for a Cure with the soccer team. The Sparkles also showcase their routines at the Springfield High School Sparktacular event and on the Mondays with Malta cheerleading challenge.

Cardinal Nation was fortunate enough to sit down and talk to senior team member Cora Gedeon, senior team member Paige Stanek, and Mrs. Ambrus, the Sparkle cheerleading founder and coach for its entire 12-year existence.

Cardinal Nation: (to Mrs. Ambrus) What made you want to start the team?

Mrs. Ambrus: I had attended a few cheerleading competitions and saw a cheer team from a gym that incorporated kids with disabilities. I thought that was amazing and they were very well received, and I thought it would be very impactful to do it out of the high school. I talked to the superintendent at that time and asked if we could do it and she said, “Yes, of course!”

Cardinal Nation: What is the best part of Sparkles for you?

Mrs. Ambrus: I love the fact that everybody gets invited to be part of the spirit program. I like that it incorporates people who have never cheered before and people of all levels of ability. There are kids who can start at the age of ten and will potentially leave at age twenty-two, which is very cool.

Cardinal Nation: What is the hardest part?

Mrs. Ambrus: Knowing what everyone needs and how to provide that in the best way, and figuring out how to provide those needs in ways that continue to promote team unity but also allow the individual to be successful.

Cardinal Nation: (to Cora and Paige) What made you want to join Sparkles?

Cora: I joined Sparkles to make new friends and meet new people.

Paige: To meet all the kids!

Cardinal Nation: What is your favorite part of being in Sparkles?

Cora: I love doing the dances.

Paige: Getting a new partner each year.

Cardinal Nation: What is your favorite memory from Sparkles?

Cora: Performing the dances and routines.

Paige: Probably the most recent game. Janessa is my partner this year and we were dancing and just having fun in between cheers.

Mrs. Ambrus: Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. I think that every year there is something that sticks with me. I would have to say my first group. I started with twelve kids, six students and six partners. I learned a lot, and I’ve learned a lot every single year, both from the parents and from the kids. It’s also just so much having fun, learning the kids’ likes and dislikes and their personalities. I love that some kids I’ve had as long as about twelve years.

Cardinal Nation: What is your favorite event the Sparkles do?

Cora: Basketball games!

Paige: Trike and bike for sure, and that was another one of my favorite memories. Janessa and I were blowing bubbles on the field and that was really fun.

Cardinal Nation: What would you say to someone who wants to join Sparkles?

Cora: Just do it, you’ll have fun!

Mrs. Ambrus: Oh definitely do it! Some people seem to just naturally have a great connection with people of all ability levels, and those who may not are able to grow and develop those skills. You truly don’t know unless you try. You may surprise yourself, and it can be an eye-opening experience for anybody who does it. I want everybody to feel happy and rewarded being part of the team together, and that applies to both partners and sparkles. Being part of the team, feeling unified, and feeling valued by their school and community.

Paige: Just don’t be nervous and put yourself out there! No one is going to judge you at Sparkles.

You can find the Sparkles on Instagram @mentorhighsparkles and on Twitter @MentorSparkles

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