NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio – This pandemic has reshaped the world around us, including our schools.
Students do more than homework. They navigate new ways of learning, while balancing the divisions in our communities.
Even though the school day ended in North Olmsted, the gymnasium at Chestnut Intermediate was full. The group of third, fourth and fifth graders stick around for a special club.
It’s called Helping Hands Friends Club.
âWe’re only in the early childhood stages, but it’s amazing how just two meetings makeâ¦ the difference you see in the way kids behave towards each other in the world. hallway, âsaid director Brett Monnin.
Brand new this school year, the club serves as a disability awareness program, helping students learn attitudes of acceptance, dignity and respect towards all people, especially people with disabilities.
âWe don’t want to exclude anyone. We’re here to help them fit in and make them feel like they’re not left out, âsaid Dallas Esson, a fifth-grader.
âI thought it was a perfect way of knowing what to bring and embracing our differences and celebrating each other,â said administrative assistant Vickie Lofton.
Lofton is the mastermind behind Helping Hands. She says that with the pandemic, a charged political climate and constant change, students needed a way to connect with each other.
âThere are so many negative things going on and you know we’re trying to figure that out, but in the meantime I want positive things for our students,â Lofton said.
Using simple activities, teachers and staff help students experience what it can be like to go to school with a disability.
At just three meetings, Monnin thinks it makes a difference.
âI think I’ve learned more about helping people in different ways,â said fourth-grader Gracie Fuoco.
Especially for those students whose socialization skills have taken a step backwards with distance learning.
âAnd because of that, it’s even more crucial right now. It’s more important, âMonnin said.
âWe are moving in the right direction. (This) may be slow, but compared to where we were a year and a half ago, it’s an improvement, âsaid Lofton.
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