TUES. |3-30-23| FEATURES
The month of March marks National Disabilities Awareness Month, which calls for supporting, encouraging, understanding and providing opportunities for those with disabilities, so they are able to live fruitful lives. The Student Government Association’s (SGA) Exceptional Children (EC) Committee does just that year-round.
The EC committee is dedicated to getting EC students more involved and included. Rose sophomores Emmy Brandenburg and Molly Schemerhorn have stepped up by devoting
Photo by Elliot Flinchbaugh
lots of time and thought to ensure this committee is organized and successful.
Brandenburg has grown up with EC kids for as long as she can remember as her mother has worked with EC individuals for numerous years. Sadly, Brandenburg witnessed her EC peers being bullied in her younger years, resulting in her standing up for them since they are not different from anyone else. Through this, she was able to make special connections with them, and it ultimately moved her to continue to mentor her EC peers in high school.
“I have practically grown up with [EC kids] because my mom works a lot with people with disabilities,” Brandenburg said. “Growing up around them, I've seen them be judged, and I am like, they are normal human beings, they just have something extra, so it feels really good to be able to include them.”
Schemerhorn also had a family member that worked with EC children, which inspired her to take on this role in high school.
“My aunt had a job working with EC kids; she was actually a teacher, so that is kind of what encouraged me to work with the EC Committee at Rose,” Schemerhorn said.
Both Brandenburg and Schemerhorn cherish the close friendships they have been able to build with the EC students at Rose through this committee.
“Honestly, creating the bonds between the kids and creating that formal relationship has been a big accomplishment, and the [EC kids] will always remember you; you are like one of their lifelong friends,” Brandenburg said.
Wayne May, an EC teacher for 20 years, feels that this committee has such a positive impact on the EC classes. He wants the committee to know how beneficial they are to not only helping the kids, but they are also teaching them different skills, including the social aspect.
“The kids look forward to [the EC Committee], it gives them social interactions, modeling behavior for them that they need to emulate and it is immeasurable how much support it provides to these kids,” May said.
Over 50 SGA members are a part of this committee, making sure each EC classroom has plenty of people helping to keep everyone included and engaged. Brandenburg and Schemerhorn are in charge of sending students to the EC classrooms, which normally happens during refresh on Fridays, where the students get to interact with each other.
“They play games, they do crafts, they host dinners, they assist in the special olympics; I mean really anything they see as an asset to the EC kids is something they are willing to take on and do,” May said.
Schemerhorn and Brandenburg prioritize coming up with different activities and games to do each week with the kids to keep them interested and engaged. Both feel that this can be tough, as not everyone is able to participate in the same activities. The EC classrooms are organized based on what levelj of disability the student has, so they have to keep that in mind when planning.
“The biggest challenge is trying to find activities that everyone can do, like the non-verbal kids and the verbal kids,”Schemerhorn said.
As time is limited with the EC kids, normally the committee will plan smaller activities when there's not a holiday when they have events with all of the EC staff and students. For every activity the EC committee plans, the kids enjoy it and they always get super excited on Fridays since they know the committee members are coming to hang out and interact with them.
“We do a lot of crafts I get off Amazon, they like to color, they also love bingo and they are very competitive, so we do that a lot,” Brandenburg said. “Also, on special holidays like Thanksgiving or Easter, we will do festive activities.”
May feels that these interactions have such a substantial impact on the kids and he is grateful for their help. The EC classes truly do cherish and enjoy getting to know and spend time with committee members creating close bonds and relationships.
“The [members] are so inclusive and so welcoming to the guys, I feel like it helps build them up and they feel like they are a part of things at Rose more with their involvement than they would be without them,” May said.
Schemerhorn and Brandenburg are thankful for the opportunities they have while getting to work with the EC Committee and the special bonds that they have created through it.