MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WRIC) — Janai Santiago, 16, has always wanted to be a cheerleader.
“Because it’s so fun, and I enjoy it,” said Janai.
Janai has Down Syndrome, and now thanks to the “Sparkle Effect” movement, that dream, has come true.
“The Sparkle Effect program is a nationally recognized cheerleading program that invites students with special needs to be part of the action during Friday night lights,” explains Megan Deluccia-Chisholm, the varsity cheerleading coach at Cosby.
Megan just brought the program to Cosby. Once it becomes official for basketball season, it will be the first Sparkle Effect team in Virginia.
“They’re like everybody else. They have dreams, they have goals, they want to do what the other girls do,” said Jacqueline Santiago, Janai’s mother.
“My varsity girls love interacting with the girls,” said coach Megan.
“It just brings me so much joy. The girls treat them just like any other girl,” said Santiago.
“Seeing the faces of the students with special needs that are experiencing something that I don’t think a lot of kids get to experience, they’re just ecstatic to be here, and it takes my breath away every time,” said coach Megan.