Local teachers start disability awareness campaign | Local News

Jason Koon Staff Writer

Two Freedom High School exceptional children teachers have developed a disability awareness campaign that has spread across the county.

Megan Welty and Kristan Powell wanted to do something to raise awareness about disabilities among students and teachers and challenge them to action. The pair developed a week’s worth of lessons, challenges and activities to be used during the school’s Patriot Pride period in the middle of each day.

“Each day has a different disability assigned to it,” Welty said. “There are lessons and students learn what makes our friends unique based off of their disabilities and also their talents.”

Freedom High School students work together to tie their shoes without using their dominant hand as part of Disability Awareness Week.

Jason Koon, The News Herald

On Tuesday, to recognize those with physical disabilities, students were asked to complete a series of tasks with their dominant hand behind their back. On Thursday, to learn more about people with autism, students were asked to complete a series of tasks while being bombarded with loud noises, flashing lights and other distractions. Welty said the idea is to help the entire student population understand a little bit about what it might be like for their peers with disabilities.

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“You walk around, and you have people that are different from you,” she said. “Our students are not fully aware of that. They become aware so they are willing to step in and embrace and include their friends. ”

Students, faculty and staff members also are being encouraged to wear a different color each day in recognition of the different categories of disability.

Both Powell and Welty said they are amazed at the strong support Disability Awareness Week has received at Freedom and across the county.

“The reaction has been amazing,” Welty said. “We’ve sold over 900 shirts county-wide to staff members.”

“The other students are really being involved with this,” Powell said. “They’re coming by our classroom and showing us the green that they’re wearing. They’re participating in the activities we’ve planned for each day. It has just been amazing to see how inclusive the school and the county has been with this. ”

According to Powell, the week has been eye-opening, not just for students without disabilities, but for those with disabilities.

“We’ve been doing this lesson plan for our students who have more severe disabilities,” she said. but also how included they are. ”

Across the county, the week will culminate today with all students being asked to sign a pledge to action called “Accept, Respect, Include.” Freedom High School’s principal, Casey Rogers, said it is important for schools to build an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion.

“There are so many kids that have different disabilities,” he said. “This week is about raising awareness and embracing and accepting the challenge that we can all be here to help each other and support each other.”

According to Jonelle Bobak Sigmon, marketing and communications specialist for Burke County Public Schools, every school in the district is participating in the week in some way, though specific activities may differ from school to school. She also expects Disability Awareness Week to become an annual observance for the school system.

In one of the highlights of the week at Freedom, Rogers was challenged to a wheelchair race in the gym by sophomore Haley Mclean. Rogers gave a valiant effort, but ultimately lost the race to the more experienced Mclean while dozens of her peers lined the basketball court cheering her on.

Moments later, Rogers asked for a rematch and Mclean agreed. Once again, Mclean easily bested her opponent while her classmates cheered her on.

Mclean said it felt good to hear her classmates cheer for her.

“I like having all my friends support me,” she said.


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