Monday, June 16, 2014

Oh the Places You'll Go

Graduation season has once again come to a close.  I am overcome each year with fond memories of my graduation and excitement for those I love as they begin their journey.  I look back at that moment and remember just how grown-up I felt.  The minute I walked across that stage, I was an adult.  Granted, by law it would be almost 6 more months before I was the magical 18 years old that truly makes one a "grown-up," but I felt as though, going forward, I would be making decisions that adults make.  Where would I live?  What job would I have?  Where would I go to college, if at all?  Who would I date?  What would I eat and when?  You see, when you are 17, those are big thoughts.

But for some, graduation is not full of excitement.  For many, particularly those with significant disabilities, stress and depression sets in.  The routine and support of the school comes to an end.  The time with peers is no longer routine, but forced.  There is a lag between school services and those from other government agencies. 

It doesn't have to be this way.  Communities, employers, and colleges do want all people to be welcomed and valuable members of society.  ALL people.  Granted it may take more planning and thought and the participation may look different but it is possible.  You see, Dr. Seuss wrote his book for everyone.  Let's all build a dream together and make his words come true.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gold Medal Winner

I am training for my first half marathon.  There are hundreds of half marathons every year but my friends and I carefully selected the one we are doing, for one very important reason.  After looking at calendars, work schedules, and travel options, we selected our run for the medal they give to everyone who crosses the finish line.

I wish everyone could choose their medal.  What would you do to get a gold medal?  Singing? A sport? Reading?  Gardening? Running? 

I have watched over the years as students tried for a medal presented at elementary continuation to all students who meet the requirements outlined in a 20 page packet on developing a 15 minute presentation about who they are as a learner, and leader.  I have also had the privilege of mentoring students through this process.  About half of my students really wanted to earn the medal and each one put in over 40 hours of work to create a presentation to present to a panel of tem teachers and administrators about themselves.  I have never been more proud than watching them each, take the stage and tell the audience who they are, not their disability, no once, but their strengths as a students and victories within the years they attended elementary school. 

Each time I watched a student be presented with their medal and watched the medal be placed over their head I thought, this is what it is to earn a gold medal.  This is everything.  Everyone should feel this.

Now I am by no means suggesting that everyone get a medal just for showing up.  I believe in earning your reward through hard work and determination.  But I am suggesting that there is something out there for each one of us, young and old, male and female, with or without a disability. 

Maybe it is as simple as seeing a medal that is fun, like the one I will earn at the conclusion of a 13.1 mile run.  Find your medal, go for it, and if you need a cheerleader, I am here.