We Are One

Amid the rush of a typical school day, students often get caught up with homework, socializing, or surviving a boring class, but sometimes they forget the other aspects of their school and peers. Specifically, students sometimes overlook about their different but equally important classmates with special needs. The Special Education program at West does an outstanding job helping students with special needs. Their responsibilities include not only academic education but also providing vocational skills and experience for special education students. Unfortunately, the separate curriculum for special education students often reduces their contact with general education students. To bridge the social gap, students have teamed up with the Special Education department to form the We Are One club.

“The We Are One club is designed to promote unity between the Special Education department and the regular education department,” said Kelly Wayne, English teacher and advisor for We Are One. “We have a pretty large Special Ed department here and I don’t think a lot of kids realize that, so we want to get people familiar with what our Special Education department does and who they are.”

The organization is the result of the efforts of junior Hunter Berholtz, who came up with the idea and started the club.

“Last year for Ms. Levy’s English class, one of my peers and I decided to create T-shirts,” said Berholtz. “The idea actually came to incorporate Special Olympics into the T-shirts and that’s how the club started.”

Although “We Are One” started out as a concept of general unity throughout the school, it quickly grew into a greater cause to unite two groups of students.

“We didn’t initially plan to connect it with the Special Ed department,” said Berholtz. “Later on during the project, the idea took off and it became something more.”

Berholtz’s T-shirts helped spread awareness of Special Ed events, and his idea of schoolwide unity laid the foundation for an organization aimed at bringing special education and general education students together.

“The idea behind the T-shirt was to promote and raise money for the Special Olympics because at West, we have a lot of Special Olympics athletes,” said Wayne. “Hunter sold quite a few T-shirts, then at the beginning of this year, he approached me and said, ‘I want to make this a club.’”

Berholtz’s initiative also inspired other students, who want to meet and communicate with their peers in the Special Education department.

“I wanted to get involved because I think it’s a good cause,” said junior Rachelle Braun. “I think the school should be more aware and we should be building these relationships.”

Fueled by the enthusiasm of its members, We Are One is already organizing events for all students to participate in, despite being a relatively new club.

“We started a lunch mentor program, so the students from We Are One are going to eat lunch with some of the kids from the Special Ed department on certain days,” said Wayne. “The Special Ed department loves that because the students get to practice their social skills and it’s with other kids, not just their teachers, so they’re really excited for that.”

We Are One members are also planning bigger events for the future to get more students involved and promote unity within the school.

“We want to start making T-shirts again. That’s going to be a big fundraiser for us,” said Berholtz. “We also want to get involved with a lot of projects. Special Olympics is already started, and we want to get involved with all the Special Olympics events we can.”

As We Are One continues to grow, its members want to encourage respect for all students, whether in a big event or a small conversation.

“Having our school acknowledge these kids and say hi to them in the hallway, that’s something simple that everyone can do,” said Wayne. “On a larger scale, the Special Olympics is huge and we have a lot of students that go there and get medals, so supporting these events and acknowledging that they’re awesome people would be really cool.”

We Are One hopes to reach these goals in order to make Berholtz’s idea a reality for special education and general education students alike.

“Unity is what we want to promote,” said Berholtz. “We want to show that everybody can be equal.”

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