Inclusion beyond the classroom: A qualitative program evaluation of the sparkle effect

Date of Award


Degree Name

Specialist in Education (Ed.S.)


Department of Counselor Education and Human Services


Advisor: Elana Bernstein


The present study evaluated the effectiveness of a school-based program, known as The Sparkle Effect, that establishes school-based cheerleading and dance teams to unite students with special needs with their typically developing peers. The program aims to build student leaders, promote inclusion in schools, and build students' self-esteem and social relationships through the use of mentoring and physical activity. A specific Sparkle Program in a public school district in southeastern Indiana was evaluated in the present study, using a qualitative design. Observations and semi-structured interviews were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Participants reported that participating in the program built student leadership skills, promoted inclusion and understanding, and created a familial connection among students and their peers. Suggestions are made for future research and recommendations for school-based professionals who work with students with special needs are also discussed.


Psychology, Education, Special Education, adolescents, sparkle effect, special needs, development of self, social relationships

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