Is it possible for an elementary school dance team to captivate an entire audience and leave them wanting more? The Sparkettes of YES Prep Airline Elementary School did just that at this year’s Senior Signing Day. But the Sparkettes are more than just a group of highly talented dancers, they are exemplary students who are truly living our elementary schools’ core values. Led by their talented coach and supported by proud parents, the Sparkettes have begun to make waves in the community and spotlight the importance of our elementary school extracurricular activities.
How one performance started it all
Nicole Zaldana Quintanilla, a.k.a. Coach Q — first-grade teacher, creator and choreographer of the Sparkettes — equipped with a dancing background, saw the natural fit when asked to be a part of the dance team. Unbeknownst to Coach Q, her willingness to lead the Sparkettes would ultimately put her group of kids front and center at NRG Stadium.
“We first performed during Hispanic Heritage Month, and then I thought it was going to be over...that it was just a one-time thing,” said Coach Q. “But then we received so many compliments and support which led us to perform during Christmas time and for a Cinco De Mayo celebration.” Coach Q remained open to giving her kids every opportunity to learn, adjust and grow. And as time passed, the ultimate opportunity fell right into her hands. Word spread that there would be auditions opening for YES Prep students to perform at Senior Signing Day (SSD), YES Prep’s largest event of the year, and elementary schools could audition as well.
Coach Q’s immediate thought was to participate. “We didn’t have to change it up. The kids already knew the dance and they were begging to do it again!” Coach Q explained. There was one slight problem, the team didn’t have an official name yet. They had to work fast. Thanks to YES Prep Airline Elementary principal Cynovia Hall, who fully supported submitting an audition tape for SSD, the name Sparkettes entered the circuit of ideas. “We had so many names that didn’t sound good, but we knew Sparkettes was a great name.”
Building the dream team
Families were supportive of the dance team so the next step was to determine what type of students would be interested. To be a part of the team, Airline students have to exhibit good behavior in class which serves as a strong incentive for kids to always give their best. The teachers recommended a few students and when the Sparkettes’ organizers saw these students dance, they noticed that they weren't shy at all and could dance with anyone and multiple styles of music.
Coach Q said that their students “dance to reggaeton, Spanish rock, salsa, merengue, cumbia and norteñas. If you watched our Senior Signing Day performance, we gave each dancing couple a solo that covered a specific type of song that matched their personality.”
From the Sparkettes' parent perspective
The routine was a showstopper bringing the audience, families and seniors alike, to their feet. The Sparkettes did not disappoint. As the music switched from reggaetón to salsa, the audience beamed with anticipation to see what would happen next.
“I was expecting him to be extremely nervous on Senior Signing Day,” said Cristina Saucedo, mother of kindergartner Cristian Saucedo. “But to my surprise, he remained calm and composed throughout the event. While there were a couple of instances during practice when he felt jittery, he knew it was something important for him and his team.”
Saucedo knew her son’s performance was going to be a fun experience that many would find adorable, but she hadn't anticipated the reaction from the audience the way it happened. Through the loud cheering, she could only describe the feeling as, “That’s my baby!”
Curious, Saucedo asked her son how it went, and he replied, "It was fun!" She could tell he genuinely enjoyed it because he couldn’t contain his excitement. It was palpable. Even after leaving the stage, he was still buzzing with energy. “It's clear that he has a strong desire to continue pursuing this path. I can see it in him. I find it adorable and I fully support his decision.”
Importance of extracurricular activities for elementary students
Putting kids in an environment that allows them to believe in themselves can help grow confidence and motivation to do better in school. That’s what Saucedo did to keep her son, Christian, learning and growing. In general, she prioritizes him participating in as many activities as possible, so he can have the memories she didn’t have growing up. Now, because of Christian’s involvement in the dance team, he has demonstrated more interest in other extracurriculars and a renewed interest in school. "I feel like all of that comes back to the Sparkettes, doing good in school and doing their work. I remember when Christian had to complete one of his tests so he could go to practice. So it’s like when you're in high school and you're in sports. You must have your grades up to play for a game.”
Incentivizing students with amazing opportunities to grow and connect is an ideology that has helped strengthen the culture of Airline Elementary, now moving into its second full year of operation. And to think, in their first year as a new YES Prep elementary school, Christian and his classmates made history by being the first elementary performers at Senior Signing Day.
It is inspiring to see the Sparkettes rise and get their moment of success. This serves as an example of how students, when given a pathway to opportunity, can come together and strengthen their communities and schools. The future is looking bright for YES Prep Airline Elementary and the growth of the Sparkettes dance team!
Let’s continue to encourage our youth by cheering them on in their pursuits! Share our Sparkettes story if you know of a family who may be interested in YES Prep elementary - as we continue on towards creating a bright future for all kids. Who knows, you just may see them on the big stage next year!