Writer: Tricia W.
Editor: Ishani S.
Visual: Kailani W.
People with disabilities have been misunderstood throughout human history. Only recently, with huge leaps in the medical industry, has the reality of the topic become more widely understood and accepted. Our own school, ISM, has initiated a very well-developed and amazing Special Needs department. Thus, it is no surprise when fellow students lead their own initiatives regarding kids with disabilities.
Two students that have pushed their vocations to the highest levels are Sudhanvita A. and Andonis D. They are two special seniors that lead service clubs to help kids with disabilities (such as Down Syndrome).
Andonis initiated the Stepping Stones Service Club, which is the ICARE site he has attended since freshman year, and aims to return this year as well. Andonis even used the site as the topic of a documentary he made for his Explore Film project when he was in 10th grade. He also used the site as his CAS project and was one of the project leaders in 2018. He says that the experiences he had with the site are deeply meaningful. “These experiences helped me learn a lot about the organisation and build a personal connection with some of the students and staff.”
Stepping Stones is an education center for kids with mild to moderate intellectual disorders. “I wanted to bring Stepping Stone students even more joy by organizing Saturday services, given that they miss out on ICARE— an opportunity to enjoy our facilities and have a great time,” Andonis says. “I saw how much Stepping stones kids enjoy ISM facilities such as playgrounds and sports gyms during ICARE, and how much joy the activities we organize brings them,” he added. He also mentions, “the mission of the club is to raise awareness about mental disorders and to strengthen the relationship between ISM and stepping stone through various activities such as Saturday services and fundraisers.” The aim of the fundraisers is to purchase occupational therapy equipment for the students at Stepping Stones according to Andonis.
“No activities have been confirmed with the Stepping Stone school just yet,” Andonis informs. However, we should all still be on the lookout on our inboxes as a club meeting will take place soon along with details of club activities. Andonis says the upcoming club meeting is to “discuss new recruitment plans, not seen in any other service club yet, that will allow high schoolers, other than seniors to join the committee.”
Sudhanvita, on the other hand, is involved in the international organization: Special Olympics. “I got into this activity because it is an organization that integrates some of my main passions. I have always been an advocate for inclusion, and with my great interest in sports, Special Olympics cause seemed to be something that I am very passionate about,” says the senior.
When asked about why she spread the initiative, Sudhanvita says that the club’s aim is to “spread awareness about intellectual disabilities, and promote inclusion among the ISM community.” She started off by simply organizing Saturday service activities where they played basketball with special needs kids last May, with the help of ADB. The success of the event led her to form a council and “start the inclusion revolution at ISM.” A truly remarkable move from a fellow student!
Back to Special Olympics, Sudhanvita is proud to say that ISM recently hosted the nationwide soccer tournament for soccer teams consisting of people with and without intellectual disabilities last October 20. It was the qualifying tournament for the International Special Olympics soccer games held in Singapore. Another big event coming up is the Special Education Network for Inclusion Awareness(SENIA) conference in February, which ISM will also host. “This is a large international conference, and is a large opportunity for ISM,” she says. “Next year we are planning to send a group of representatives from ISM to various international conferences such as the youth for inclusion conference,” she added as she encourages more students to actively participate in the club. “Not only this, but we have council positions available for next year. We are looking forward to seeing underclassmen and other interested members.”
Both seniors have done amazing work in the name of awareness and inclusivity, both values that our school places importance on. Be on the lookout on your inboxes for emails from these two amazing clubs and may they be an inspiration for other students wanting to make our community even better.
This article can also be found on ISM’s Service Learning Council website, along with other service updates.