The Sparkle Effect Continues Practices Virtually


The 2019-2020 Sparklers performed at basketball games during halftime after the cheerleaders but due to COVID-19, the 2020-2021 team must practice on zoom and may not be able to perform in-person this year. “We perform at 3-4 home games a year and then at Special Olympics. We missed that in 2020 due to the pandemic, and we missed properly seeing our seniors of 2020 off,” said Frank.

Vivian Richey, Writing Wizard

Amongst the number of extracurricular activities that have gone virtual since quarantine has begun, The Sparkle Effect, an all inclusive cheer/dance group, is one of the groups that does their practices differently than they did before.

¨The Sparkle Effect meets for about 40 minutes on Wednesdays on zoom. Currently, we talk and practice our cheer and dance. In a normal setting, leaders would also lead a snack and craft with maybe a game or two to break up the practice a bit,¨ said Frank.

The Sparkle Effect emphasizes the inclusion of students with disabilities and the idea that their classmates should get to know them better. However, due to social distancing, the group has not been able to meet in person and partake in snacks and crafts together. Because of that, some members no longer meet.

¨Now that Sparklers are virtual, our practices are shorter and we don’t get to interact with special needs people in person…Not every member from last year showed up., I don’t know why. but I understand that it’s hard with all the virtual things.¨ said senior Yeva Bilenetska, who works with her twin sister Sonya Bilenetska as group leaders.

The hardest part for administrators who have put work into allowing extracurriculars to continue whether it be virtually or in person is planning due to the fact that things are going to work differently now than things were back in March.
¨Honestly, I was worried about doing it, and we even lost a sponsor this year because we all have new needs with the pandemic. Many teachers and students are tired of zooming by the end of the day, but our student leaders are gifted and driven,¨ said Frank.

However, the Sparklers were eager to meet and keep the team going.
“Seeing them motivated to start it back up inspired me and Ms. McCorkle to [try and] keep it going to allow for leaders an outlet in leading and the kids who are a part of a team, to have a place to see friends, laugh and exercise on a zoom which is different from class on a zoom,” said Frank.

While the Sparklers were eager to meet again even over zoom, practicing dances brings a whole new set of struggles and hardships for students to overcome.

¨I think it’s hard for everyone to learn cheers and dance over the zoom… because the screen is small and everything is reflected so I mess up my right and left sometimes,¨ said Yeva Bilenetska.

Although The Sparkle Effect is more difficult online than it would be to meet in person, Frank has had no intentions of pushing for the group to have in-person rehearsals anytime soon.

¨Meeting in-person has not really been discussed. For many adults, we worry about the number of covid cases, and many have not been in public places all summer long. So, we likely will not meet in-person until we really must. It will probably depend on the team as we discuss,,¨ said Frank.

The Sparklers collectively agree that while dancing over a zoom call is not ideal, it is important for the group to meet for a little bit once a week virtually rather than not at all.

¨I think the reason the Sparklers weren’t cancelled is because we still want to engage with special needs kids and want to make their virtual experience a little more fun.
The most difficult part about being virtual is that it’s hard to find more people to join,¨ said Sonya Bilenetska.

Currently, The Sparkle Effect team at North has only 5 people, but there used to be more.

¨Years ago, two wonderful students–one a Vikette and one a cheerleader–asked me to sponsor The Sparkle Effect after school. They were the first to start it here. It is national, but the regional group started at Ladue. They wanted to help students with special needs be a part of a team like they were as leaders on cheer and dance, to let them feel part of a spirit team for games,” said The Sparkle Effect sponsor and ESOL teacher Tricia Frank.

The Sparklers are an example of students pushing for connect with others even if they can’t do so in-person. With the right planning, all groups can continue exploring their hobbies during social distance learning.