Huntsville Change Project
Huntsville High School
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CHANGE PROJECT: Huntsville
YOUTH, PARTNERS IN HUNTSVILLE MAKE IN-ROADS AROUND INCLUSION
A school assembly, a symposium on mental health, and a social media campaign were just some of the vehicles used by a group of students at Huntsville High School to raise greater awareness around inclusion at their school and in the community.Youth Change Animators Abby Witterick and Chantel Musselman headed up the Huntsville Change Project. Community Living Huntsville and Huntsville High School were also key partners in the project.
Witterick says their focus was to engage young people at their school around the importance of including students who have an intellectual disability in activities that are part of the school culture. Often, young people who have a disability are kept apart and do not experience what would be typical experiences for their high school peers.
“The goal of our project was to spread inclusion,”
~ Abby Witterick
They kicked off the project on March 3rd, in conjunction with a local Spread the Word to End the R- Word campaign, which included a school assembly that featured motivational speaker Nick Foley. He brought messages of inclusion, belonging and advocacy.
The Huntsville Change Project also had an active role in the Mental Health Symposium that was held in May. Every year, Grade 10 students from the three Muskoka-area high schools come together for the symposium. Chantal Musselman led a workshop on inclusion and its impact on mental health, and she also discussed the concept of belonging with her peers.
Witterick says they also engaged people on social media by “creating the hashtag #RandomActsofInclusion.” Any time a student felt included, regardless of where they were, they were encouraged to snap a photo capturing the moment, share it on social media, and then nominate three other people to do the same within a 24-hour time period.
Playing a support role in the Huntsville Change Project was Community Living Huntsville. Historically, the association has shared a connection with the local high school. Andrea Johnston is the Manager of Quality and Community Development for the association, and she was the Adult Ally for the Huntsville Change Project. As a resource to the Youth Animators, Johnston helped them to implement their ideas and to connect with key personnel at the high school.
“I think it’s so important for young people to know that just a small gesture of implementing change is going to have an effect on others. This [project] was about them taking the lead and implementing their ideas, so I think it has been very empowering for them.”
Johnston attended the Re:Action4Inclusion Conference last fall in Orillia, along with Community Living Huntsville’s Executive Director Cathy Stroud. Stroud enjoyed “spending a weekend around the enthusiasm and the energy of all those youth” and found the conference to be uplifting and energizing.
Change Project: Huntsville
Huntsville High School student receives Ontario Junior Citizen nomination
HUNTSVILLE — Chantel Musselman has a lengthy history of volunteering.
Chantel, a student at Huntsville High School, is involved both at her school and in the community, and was recently recognized for her outstanding achievements by the Ontario Community Newspaper Association with a 2016 Ontario Junior Citizen nomination. The awards celebrate exceptional and inspirational achievements of Ontarians aged six to 17.
Whether volunteering at community dances or as a camp counsellor, Chantel is always striving to make her community inclusive and physically accessible.
Supporting nominator, Andrea Johnston with Community Living Huntsville, describes Chantel as a “change maker.”
“She believes in empowering her peers to see possibilities and leads by example,” writes Johnston.
Chantel has volunteered with Community Living Huntsville for the past three years and is actively involved with the R-Word Campaign, co-leading a rally within her high school to gain pledges to end the use of the “r-word.” Chantel has helped gain over 1,000 pledges within the Huntsville High School.
Last year, Chantel was also involved with Community Living Ontario’s Re:Action4Inclusion movement, a provincewide, youth-focused social justice movement. Chantel was the conference host and advocated for individuals with disabilities.
Written By Paige Phillips, Taken from the Huntsville Forester
HHS students advocate for inclusion and respect with annual pledge
It’s all about respect.
On Wednesday March 7, the Huntsville High School (HHS) committee reAction4Inclusion, in partnership with Community Living Huntsville, held an “End the R Word” pledge event.
Both teens with and without a disability are part of ReAction4Inclusion. The committee involves student leaders, student ambassadors, and adult allies, and focuses on promoting social justice and changing the culture of HHS to be more respectful and inclusive for all.
Chantel Musselman, Annika Johnston, Bailey Williams, Nicola Deroode and Abby Witterick were the original committee who brought the annual event to HHS.
“After attending multiple conferences for Community Living I really felt that it was important to do my part to bring inclusion to the community,” said Abby Witterick. “Thankfully we had a really strong support system through Community Living Huntsville.”
The committee has grown to include students Alexandra Stelter, Maddie Witterick, Ravyn Hoode and Kelly Miller; student ambassadors Chantal Musselman, Nicola DeRoode, and Abigail Witterick; and adult allies Victoria Lamont and Gwen Jones, both family support workers, and Jennifer Cooper and David Armstrong, both teachers at Huntsville High School.
During the pledge event on March 7, a large banner with the message “Spread Respect” was hung in the main stairwell at Huntsville High School.
“We used this location as it is the busiest stairwell, and we wanted as many students as possible to see it and be involved,” said Victoria Lamont, a family support worker with Community Living. “On this banner, positive and kind words were written, as well as hand prints to symbolize inclusion.”
“Community Living Huntsville is committed to creating change in our community to include ALL people of ALL abilities. As a family support worker, I advocate for inclusion within the North Muskoka school community,” said Lamont.
In addition to the banner, a large scroll was made with the message, “We Huntsville Hoyas pledge to spread respect with eliminating the use of the r-word.”
The committee also set up a selfie booth and group photo station where students could take pictures with large cardboard cut-outs saying “No r-word.” Students were encouraged to post these photos with the hashtag #RandomActsOfInclusion on social media platforms, as this is a hashtag that ReAction4Inclusion committee members created and want to continue to raise awareness.
“Many students who stopped to pledge asked what this campaign was for and we got to answer these questions which allowed us to complete our main goal: spreading awareness and education within the school,” said Lamont. “The r-word is extremely hurtful and disempowering, especially for individuals and students who have various developmental disabilities. This event is important as it brings people and students together to create inclusive environments and to spread respect.”
How can you do your part with ending the R word?
Be mindful of the impact words can have on others.
Be kind to one another.
Ask questions and take the time to listen.
Allow yourself to be open to listening to different perspectives and life stories.
Get to know people in your community that are different.
Educate others about the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.
Article Written by Sydney Armstrong, Taken from The Huntsville Doppler
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