3 pupils make disability awareness a priority


April 12, 2001|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THREE EIGHTH-graders from Glenwood Middle School held a Disability Awareness Program (DAP) at the school Friday. The program is designed to help children respect and feel more comfortable around people with disabilities.

Ashley Johnston of Woodbine and Paula Henson and Nicole Johnson, both of Glenwood, organized the event as part of the Enrichment Program at the school. The Enrichment Program provides opportunities for schoolchildren to combine their interests, knowledge and creative ideas into a particular area of study. They then present their findings to an audience.

Priscilla Geisler, Gifted and Talented Resource Program teacher, guided them in their effort. They presented the DAP idea to her early in the school year.

"When they asked me, I just put it right on them," Geisler said. "They take the skills that they already have and they stretch them."

Geisler said the children must do a self-evaluation and be able to set goals for the plan.

The girls worked with Anne Wade, coordinator of the Disability Awareness Program for Howard County schools, to line up speakers. About 30 speakers participated in the all-day program.

Many volunteers also helped to make the event a success. Children were trained to chaperone the visiting speakers. Chaperones learned how to talk with a deaf person, where to take them to the bathroom and other "disability clues" that would help the visitors, Geisler said. Two schoolchildren were assigned to guide each guest around the school. Ashley, Paula and Nicole were hostesses.

Teachers received lesson plans from the girls to prepare for the day. The girls also prepared a video on DAP. In the morning, every class viewed the video to introduce pupils to the program.

"The more the students know about what's happening, the more they'll get out of it," Geisler said.

The school was divided by grades, and each grade followed a schedule that was set up by the three eighth-graders. The children moved around the school listening to speakers throughout the day. They also enjoyed watching wheelchair basketball and hearing about Fidos for Freedom, which trains dogs to assist physically challenged and hearing-impaired individuals. The dogs assist people by listening for smoke alarms or retrieving dropped items, for instance.

Ashley, Paula and Nicole have worked together on other Enrichment Program ideas in the past two years. They had been preparing DAP Day for months.

Ashley has a personal interest in disabilities. She has a sister who attends Cedar Lane School, which teaches preschool and school-age children who are developmentally delayed, intellectually limited or who have multiple disabilities.

"I want the students to feel comfortable around people who have disabilities and have respect for them," she said.

Paula had a friend who attended Cedar Lane School and Kennedy Krieger Institute. She is glad she participated in DAP Day.

"It actually makes you feel really good about yourself to help people feel good around people with disabilities," she said.

River Hill volunteers

River Hill High School seniors Jessica Lee and Catherine Jackson have been named Service Star Award Winners. The award is presented by the Maryland Student Service Alliance of the Maryland State Department of Education for volunteer work in the community.

One of Jessica's many volunteer activities is her leadership of the SOAR program at River Hill. SOAR - Students Opportunity for Advancement and Review - is an after-school tutoring service offered by the National Honor Society for students who need extra help. SOAR was begun at River Hill by guidance counselor Annette Mooney.

Catherine was awarded the Service Star for her involvement in the Junior American Red Cross. She started a chapter at River Hill.

Jessica is also a Prudential Spirit of Community honoree, along with senior James Garrett. Their honors result from the commitment they have given to their volunteer activities.

Senior Xiasong Meng is the volunteer Webmaster for the state-sponsored Leadership Maryland Forum for Policy Change. Visitors to the site at www.leadership md.org will find information about a July conference on attracting and retaining Maryland teachers. Xiasong used several computer languages to produce the site.

Progressive Garden Tour

On April 28, you can help your garden and the Chesapeake Bay. The Progressive Garden Tour will visit three Howard homes where the Bay Wise approach has been used. Bay Wise advocates environmentally friendly landscaping.

Betsy Kelley, coordinator of the Bay Wise Project, and Georgia Eacker, extension educator for the Howard County Master Gardeners, will speak. Registration is required for this free program.

Information: 410-313-1907.

Young Artist Competition

Four River Hill High School students were among 13 recognized at the Columbia Orchestra 2001 Young Artist Competition.

Elizabeth Shin, a freshman cellist, placed second in the completion. Freshman Young Oh Hahm and sophomores Karl Petre and Jen Griesbach were recognized for participation on clarinet.

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