As a recent high school graduate, I can attest that high school can be a challenging social experience for everybody. While I went through some exclusion throughout my years in high school, my experiences pale in comparison to what our special education students faced. Our special education program was for students with learning disabilities and other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Down Syndrome. The special education students were separated from the rest of the student body, but whenever there was any interaction between the two groups, I would witness mostly mean-spirited and negative exchanges. I specifically remember a classmate openly mocking the way another student in the special education program was talking. This attitude towards the special education program was common throughout the student population, and it was often discouraging to see special education students eat lunch or walk in the halls on their own. However, inclusive clubs across campus paved the way for these special education students to begin to have more positive interactions and build friendships that last. I wanted to be a part of something that made a difference at my school, and this is why I joined Club United, a club specifically focused on including the students in the special education program.
As opposed to other clubs, where the main focus was to meet and connect with other students within the group, Club United put an emphasis on reaching out to others students, and making sure every student felt included, especially students in the special education program. We would have lunch together, make sure all the students were included in school events (such as games, dances etc.), and planned events and fundraisers for the students. Just by being there, I felt the strong purpose and drive that the members had to make sure that these students were incorporated into the school. The effects of Club United were powerful, as the club helped improve the experiences of the special education students, and taught other students about what it meant to be inclusive.
Club United made a huge impact on my life and on the lives of the students around me. If you want to see the same impact at your school, here are three steps you can take to start your own inclusive club at your high school!
Contact to your school administrator
Every school has someone who is in charge of the daily functions of the school and the student body. This person is normally called the School Administrator, but might also go by the titles of Head Teacher or School Director. By contacting your school administrator, not only will your club be official, you will also get permission to do things like use a classroom during a break for meetings or hang posters up in the hallways.
Reach out to others!
A club needs multiple members if it ever is going to succeed! Reach out to friends who might be interested, or members of similar clubs who would be willing to contribute to your club. If your high school has a special education program, make sure to talk to them about your club, your intentions, and possible times where you can meet up and hang out with special education students! If your high school doesn’t have a special education program, there are plenty of students who face exclusion, bullying, and loneliness on a daily basis who would greatly benefit from an inclusive program.
Once you have a small group of members willing to make a difference in your school, make sure to start planning some events! Barbeques, sports events and game nights are some great examples of ways that the student body can include special education students. Be sure to contact and follow up with people involved, so that plans don’t fall through and the event runs smoothly.
Making an inclusive club in high school is a challenging, but positive and rewarding experience. It allows students to both included and less lonely, and teaches students about how to reach out, include others, and become included themselves.