Freezin’ for a Reason

kelly1This past November, the Peer Mentoring Group at Grant Beacon Middle School attended a Project Unify Leadership Summit hosted by Special Olympics and after that meeting, the Peer Mentoring Group really took off. At this Leadership Summit, students went through a rotation of activities ranging from playing unified basketball to having discussions about the harmful use of the R-word (“retard”/”retarded”) in the school community. Since then, we have been busily planning our upcoming trip to the Denver Public Schools’ Special Olympics Unified Basketball tournament, participating in the Special Olympics Polar Plunge fundraiser, and hosting an R-word campaign at our school.

The Special Olympics Polar Plunge fundraiser has really taken center stage in our enrichment class. The Polar Plunge is an annual event where individuals, organizations, and teams work together to raise money for the Special Olympics programming in Colorado. They do so by jumping into an outdoor pool filled with cold water! There is also a 5K Fun Walk/Run for Respect for the less adventurous participants. We have formed a “Cool Schools Polar Plunge Team”, the Grant Griffins, to participate i

n the Cool Schools Challenge along with other school groups across Denver.

The excitement shown by students towards this event highlights the goals of the Peer Mentoring program. Offered as an enrichment class, Peer Mentoring was made with the intent of creating a more inclusive

environment at our school. This is achieved through helping students develop the unique leadership skills needed to act as mentors to their peers with intellectual disabilities. Students are encouraged to take an active role in shaping a school culture of inclusion by building relationships and incorporating their differently-abled peers inside and outside of the classroom.

As the Polar Plunge approaches, Grant Beacon students have been working together to fundraise through making and selling Candy Cane Grams and Valentine Grams at the school. In the end what really matters

isn’t the amount of money we raise. It is the culture of respect and inclusion we build in our school. It is creating a school environment that our students want to be engaged in, where students can look forward to coming to school. An environment where not only the students in our enrichment, but their peers and families too, are excited about jumping into freezing water to raise money for Special Olympics.

– Kelly Scenna, AmeriCorps member at Grant Beacon Middle School

kelly3Kelly with her Peer Mentoring Group at Grant Beacon Middle School

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