Junior Receives World of Children Award

Sam Grainger-Shuba

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Photo by Marra Clay

On Nov. 7, junior Sarah Cronk will receive the World of Children Award, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Child Advocates.” The award recognizes those who focus on changing the lives of children around the world. Cronk will receive a $35,000 grant to expand the work she has been doing with her nonprofit, The Sparkle Effect.

The Sparkle Effect was started by Cronk during high school. Her older brother, Charlie, was born with a disability that hindered his comprehension of social cues, which made the transition into high school difficult. According to Cronk, a popular upperclassman invited Charlie to join the swim team, which made a world of difference to him.

“The swimmers accepted Charlie into their social group and gave Charlie a place where he belonged. To me, this idea of belonging –– of being an accepted part of a high school community –– shouldn’t be considered a privilege available to only some students. Rather, we should consider it a basic human right,” Cronk said.

From there, Cronk decided to use her role as a cheerleader to create the first school-based, inclusive cheerleading program in the country, the Spartan Sparkles. An inclusive cheer program has teams that do not discriminate based on ability. The program enjoyed success, to the point where Cronk decided to start her organization, The Sparkle Effect, the name of which came from a nickname created by members of her community.

“It’s an incredible honor to receive the World of Children Award. The Sparkle Effect is really only a small piece to the puzzle of what children need today, but winning World of Children gives us faith that we have the potential to help more and more communities in need of compassion and inclusion,” said Cronk.

She was excited to be attending the awards gala in New York City on Nov. 7, which will put her in the same room as many advocates that have inspired her and that may be able to help her cause.

At Whitman, Cronk has continued work with The Sparkle Effect from remote distances. There are over 100 teams established nationwide, but she has yet to start a team in Eastern Washington. According to Cronk, the college has been supportive of her endeavors with The Sparkle Effect.

“When you boil it down, my organization is simply about facilitating the success of people of all abilities,” she said. “I believe that Whitman likewise focuses wholeheartedly on the success of its students, which is an attitude I hope continues long after I’m gone.

Cronk plans to add an additional 100 Sparkle Effect teams, provide uniforms and on-site teacher training for 2,000 students with the grant money, as well as start camps.

“Right now we’re planning on launching our first Sparkle Effect cheer camps in some of the cities where we have several programs started (Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, etc.),” said Cronk.

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