Making a difference

Morgan Taylor, Staff Writer

October 27, 2017

    This year, the Special Education department at RHS decided to donate money that they fundraised through recycling to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and planned a scavenger hunt for the students of RHS.

    The students of the Special Education department come by each week to collect the recycling (plastic bottles and such) that the teachers at RHS accumulate. This month, the students decided to donate the money they made from these weekly visits to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas.

    The recycling program is relatively new at RHS, since this particular Special Needs class is still in its first month of existence. Mrs. McNair says that this program was at Redlands East Valley High School (REV) before, and other clubs collected the recycling. Since it is the first month of the recycling collection, the students have not yet had the opportunity to donate anywhere else.

    Mrs. McNair, a special education teacher here at RHS, says, “We [Mrs. McNair and her class] watch news stories daily and had been following the terrible situation in both Texas and Florida. There was a certain interview that really touched us out of Key West with an older father crying that he hadn’t had any food or water to give his family for 2 days. None of the students have personal money but they unanimously voted to give our first month of recycling money to the hurricane victims.”

    Hurricane Harvey relief efforts have been extensive. Celebrities, like Kim Kardashian West and Sandra Bullock, have donated exorbitant amounts of money, and the Red Cross has supported Texas, as well as Florida, throughout the crisis. However, the Red Cross is not the only organization worth contributing to.

    The Special Education students chose to donate their money to an “… organization that was buying wheelchairs for those with physical disabilities that were caught in the flooding and had to leave their chairs behind.”

    A well-known charity known as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) is extremely relevant not only in the world of philanthropy, but in the day-to-day lives of regional people. The YMCA has even established a branch here in Redlands, and has programs that offer work opportunities and hosts other philanthropic events.

    The YMCA provides an inexpensive way to meet all everyday needs. It has a day care for children, a gym, and camps that arrange activities and events to keep kids occupied. It even has camps that administer help to those who need a different kind of care.

    “We provide assistance to parents and providers seeking resources on disabilities and other special needs, training, parent support, inclusive child care, ADA regulations, and referrals to community programs and resources…” (www.ymca.org) says the YMCA.

    Not only does the Special Education department get involved with events occurring outside of Redlands society, but they also try to make the RHS community a more fun and inclusive place.

    For instance, when a teacher from the Special Education department read about painted rocks being hidden around Redlands from the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper, it was soon implemented by the Special Education program at RHS.

    “#RedlandsRocks touts itself as an initiative to “raise community spirit” through the decorating, hiding, finding and re-hiding of rocks in Redlands and Loma Linda. The group was inspired by similar groups in the Inland Empire and beyond,” says the Redlands Daily Facts (www.redlandsdailyfacts.com).

    The Special Education department took this idea and put their own twist on it. First, the students have fun painting the rocks vibrant colors. Then, instead of being hidden around Redlands, the painted rocks are stashed around the Redlands High School campus. Once that has been accomplished, all there is left to do is wait for them to be found.

    There are 65 painted rocks hidden around Redlands High School. However, only 10 of those 65 have been turned in so far.

    If you find a painted rock, bring it to the Special Education department. You’ll get to meet and talk to the students there, and enjoy an otter pop!

    The painted rocks scavenger hunt was created not only in order for the students to have a good time, but to offer them a learning opportunity concerning the campus of RHS and its General Education students.

    “We decided it would be a fun way to not only get to paint but to get to know the campus layout by hiding the rocks and then to get to know students when they brought them back to the classroom,” says Mrs. McNair.

    The PossAbilities club at RHS strives to help the special education students be more included in events at school. They organize events like family game night and hold meetings weekly, on Tuesdays at lunch either at room 24 or Grace Mullen auditorium.

    Mrs. McNair says, “PossAbilities is through Loma Linda University and focuses on each individuals’ strengths rather than weakness. We have a strong and enthusiastic club on campus that organizes fun and interactive activities that integrate our students with general education students. The largest annual event is the Prom on campus in May each year.”

    PossAbilities coordinates a prom in May for the students of the Special Education department because of the necessity of taking into consideration the particular aspects of each person. The students often can’t attend the General Education prom at the end of the year due to the various characteristics of each person that has to be taken into account.

    “Our program accomplishes this through advocacy, mentoring, providing peer support and resources, and creating opportunities through physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social interaction. PossAbilities celebrates the value of each individual regardless of their limitations and supports their role as a valued member of the community,” (www.teampossabilities.org) says the PossAbilities program at Loma Linda University Health department.

    Through the Special Education program at RHS, students have the chance to be integrated into different work programs and accomplish a measure of social growth.

    “There are three classrooms in the program that serves students affected by moderate disabilities. Each of the classes have many things going. Students in our classes are mostly over 18 and so the focus is on community and campus based work opportunities,” says Mrs. McNair.

    One aspect that the special education students focus on is “…kindness in our [Mrs. McNair’s] class and participate in kindness acts numerous times during the week. Just yesterday our students bought lunch for the employee that took our recycling since he had been super welcoming to us,” says Mrs. McNair.

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