Are you a parent, educator, PTA, or part of your school’s administration? Are you looking to make your school a more inclusive, embracing environment in the face of pressing HIB legislation? Is “tolerance” and “no bully zones” just not meeting the needs or motivating staff and students at your school anymore? The “Include ME!” program offered by Pathways is the initial training our organization provides. How does “Include ME!” work? It transforms the conversation in the following ways:
1) Pathways replaces the word tolerance with the concept that inclusion is empowering. The program gives examples throughout that inspire students to go beyond tolerating diversity to becoming empowered by it.
2) Pathways replaces the words “acts of kindness” with “do something exceptional.” For too long we have told children small acts of kindness such as a smile or opening the door for somebody is enough. We have made students that do this the exception when in reality these acts should be what we expect from our students. If we can send a man to the moon we can certainly teach our children to do more than smile or open a door! The positive cycle that comes from reaching toward becoming exceptional will empower your students and change the culture of your community and school.
3) Pathways is changing the conversation about disability. Throughout the “Include ME!” program Pathways emphasizes what people with special needs “can do” not what they “can’t do.” For over 15 years, Pathways has seen that ability and success is not about what you have gathered outside of you but who you have become from the inside out. The most disabling thing to anyone is a closed – self absorbed mind with a limited vision that can’t see or tap into the potential that exists in each of us!
After Include ME! assemblies, children often volunteer to become mentors and go through the mentor training. This is an extension of the positive messages of the “Include ME!” campaign and greatly expands and builds upon it. “Include ME!” is run by students with adults acting as facilitators. It blossoms into a youth leadership model where children take genuine ownership and begin to run an entire array of programs from sports and recreation, academics, life skills, and employment training. Participating in and learning how to run these inclusive programs shows the power of working together and empowering students of all abilities firsthand. Perhaps the best way to help students move toward a more empowering world where they feel they belong is to serve as change makers and to give them opportunities to get into the trenches to make it happen.
Schedule an Include ME! assembly in your community today! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.