A little over a month ago I wrote about the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival organized by LADD, a nonprofit organization for whom I am now doing public relations, bringing world renowned photographer Rick Guidotti here to share his – and ReelAbilities’ – message that it is our differences that give individual’s their own unique beauty.
Through the ReelAbilities Education Outreach Team, Rick spoke with hundreds of area high schools. And already, something truly outstanding has occurred to spread impact. Milford High School Photography Teacher Janelle Schunk came up with an idea for a project pairing students with and without disabilities to create an exhibition called Different Lives Same Beauty.
Milford’s Photography I class worked with students in the school’s multiple disabilities unit to learn about each other’s differences AND similarities. In addition to create beautiful portraits, building relationships and friendships were also goals.
“I was nervous when I first met John, who is nonverbal. I wondered how I was going to make him smile. We learned he likes beads and were able to use beads to get him to smile and look at the camera,” student Leah Breuer shared in a blog post on the Milford Schools site. “Before I had never really talked to the kids in the MD unit, but after this project I know all of their names and I say hi in the hallways.”
What is really awesome about this is the lasting impact this project will have as a foundation for future good friends, neighbors, citizens, employers and employees.
Please click to see WLWT coverage.
Speaking about success in the classroom
What is inclusion and why is it important in the positive growth for all children? Sara Bitter, ReelAbilities Education Outreach Team chair, was interviewed recently by Jason’s Connection about the impact of ReelAbilities’ work in area schools. Please click here to read her interview.
She shared how inspiration for working with ReelAbilities came from her son who has a disability. When he entered kindergarten, she gave a presentation to his class. I think the first thing the presentation did was, it helped the kids understand some of the challenges of his disability. More importantly though, it helped them to see (through real pictures) all of his many capabilities, she told Jason’s Connection.
“…we shouldn’t assume that because someone has a disability, he or she can’t have big achievements. Can’t have great life experiences. Or can’t get a job, have a family or have a successful life. Modifications and accommodations throughout a person’s education will help them be able to participate in almost every academic and extracurricular activity so they can grow into productive self-determined adults. It just takes an ability to think outside of the box and make this happen.
Please click here to learn more about the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival Outreach Program.
At 25, Oscar Pistorious is a world record holding sprinter from South Africa. At 8, Ellie May Challis is a fun-loving little girl from Essex, England. They both love running and love life, but until this day their paths had never met. What they share are limitless abilities and unwavering determination to not let the fact that they do things differently stand in their way. Word has it that in this indoor field where this was taken, Ellie beat Oscar in all four 15-meter races to the cheers of her twin sister Sophie and older siblings Taila and Connor.
How totally cool is this! Yes, these are the same group of men. (photo by John Wardlow) I saw their story on WLWT.
Every five years for the past three decades, John Wardlaw, John Dickson, Mark Rumer, Dallas Burney and John Molony have been meeting at same place and taking the same photo. Over the years, they’re lives have obviously changed and they’ve moved pretty far away, but their connections have remained strong.
“We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives, no matter what,” Dickson told CNN. “Up until there’s one guy just sitting in the same pose! Even then, maybe someone will take a picture of an empty bench for us.”
To read the whole story, please click HERE.
Note: this is a guest post written by Nora Cordrey
As young people around the Tri-State and across the nation prepare for the rite of passage known as high school graduation, take a moment to think about the ones who had to overcome incredible odds to get there. In many families, going to college is a given. Other teens have never known an adult who finished high school and chose to continue their education. To many, that sends a less than positive message about the value of education.
As a volunteer with Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, I’ve spent years mentoring Jamaysha. We met when she was 9—wide-eyed and full of spirit, but also a victim of a world she didn’t create. Her father died before she was born, she seldom sees her mother, her guardian passed away when Jamaysha was 14, and she’s been enrolled in five school districts because of constantly having to move.
Through it all, as her “Big Sister,” I have encouraged her to stay focused on her school and to take advantage of every opportunity. My husband and I learned of the Upward Bound program which assists first generation college-bound students with tutoring, enrichment activities and developing leadership skills. Once she was accepted into Upward Bound, Jamaysha committed to and has participated in the program for the last four years. This involvement, and her hard work, has helped prepare her for college. In the Fall, she will attend Cincinnati State, studying culinary arts.
My “Little Sister” is graduating from high school, one of the few members of her family to do so. She ranks 34th in a class of 220 with a grade point average of 3.13. She’s an inspiration. Not content to sit on the sidelines, and overcoming transportation issues, she found a way to participate in several extra-curricular activities and hold a job. She has learned the value and pleasure of giving back to the community and we have volunteered together at charity events. I believe Jamaysha will someday be an incredible mentor herself.
I am not Jamaysha’s only mentor and join teachers past and present, our Big Brothers Big Sisters case manager, the director of Upward Bound, Jamaysha’s family and others in congratulating her and all the other young people who are overcoming circumstances to find success.
As adults, we have a responsibility to the young people in our community. There are many more Tri-State children who need mentors, who need guides as they head into the future. The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati is to help children become successful in school and in life. Surely that’s what we all want and, surely, what all children deserve.
Consider becoming a mentor today.