Mackenzie Croy, 18, has watched from the sidelines nearly her entire life. This year she is a senior, so it was her last chance to be a high school cheerleader.

"It was her dream to be a cheerleader," explained her mom, Ann-Marie. "It's a long time coming and it finally happens now."

She remembers when Mackenzie did not like school. She has Down syndrome and did not feel like she fit in until the Sparkle Effect cheer program came to Tahoma High School thanks to Allison Bureau.

"They're getting more attention," Bureau said. "People know their names and that's changing their lives."

The Sparkle Effect gives kids with special needs the opportunity to cheer with their home school's squad instead of participating in a squad that's only filled with students who have special needs.

That way, special needs students like Mackenzie aren't just on a special team. The team is special because she is on it.

"She's happy with herself and proud of herself," Ann-Marie said.

More than 130 schools have the Sparkle program nationwide. There are 7 in the Puget Sound with 3 more in the works.

Tahoma High School's program was the second.

"They came to her birthday party and she hasn't had girlfriends at her birthday party since kindergarten," Ann-Marie said of Mackenzie. "She has so much to offer the world and people just didn't see it until she was out there cheering for them."

It's changing students like Mackenzie, but it's also changing students who are watching. Bureau notices more compassion, unity and inclusion among the Tahoma High School students.

"Because now they're not seeing their disability," Bureau said. "Now they're seeing their ability."