In Chesterfield County, Virginia, sixteen-year-old Janai Santiago can finally fulfill her dream of being a cheerleader. Santiago has Down syndrome and thanks to a program called The Sparkle Effect, she can now participate as a cheerleader at Cosby High School. Varsitycheerleading coach Megan Deluccia-Chisholm brought The Sparkle Effect to the school so that girls with special needs can cheer alongside the Cosby Titans cheerleaders. The Sparkle Effect, according to their website, “is an innovative organization that helps students nationwide create school-based cheerleading and dance teams that bring together students with and without disabilities.” In order to be part of the Sparkle Effect program, the team at Cosby needs at least four girls from any Chesterfield County high school.

“They’re like everybody else,” says Jacqueline Santiago, the mother of Janai Santiago via the ABC 8 News in Richmond. “They have dreams, they have goals, they want to do what the other girls do.”

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