OS students with disabilities shine on new cheerleading team
The Ocean Springs High Greyhounds will hit the field Friday night for their Homecoming game. But on the sidelines, there will be a group of young ladies who've always dreamed of cheering under the Friday night lights.
Friday morning, the school's newest cheerleading squad helped get the crowd pumped up at the Greyhounds' homecoming pep rally.
"I'm going to yell as loud as I can," said Ocean Springs High freshman Shandy Gillan.
Shandy is one of seven girls with disabilities who are members of the Greyhound Sparkles. Ocean Springs High is the first school in Mississippi to form an inclusive cheer team through an organization called The Sparkle Effect.
"It feels fun, like it's amazing." said Shandy. "I never knew they'd make a Sparkle team for us and I liked cheering when I was little."
Twenty-two varsity cheerleaders at the school volunteered to be on the team, which practices twice a week, to show the girls all the right moves and serve as their mentors.
"I thought it's really great to give everybody, every girl, an opportunity to cheer with us on the sidelines at football games. It's been great, the girls are so much fun to work with," said Ocean Springs varsity cheerleader Anna Catherine Melchi.
The Sparkles cheer at all school pep rallies and during the first quarters of home football games, and say they feel like they're part of the Greyhound family.
"I just feel accepted and I have adaptability," said Ocean Springs High sophomore Samantha Stratakos. "I get to spend time with friends. I get to participate in cheerleading and do what cheerleaders do."
The "Sparkle Effect" organization donated $1,000 to purchase the uniforms and to train the varsity cheerleaders on how to mentor the girls.
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