Treat others how you want to be treated. That has always been the golden rule in my life. My parents instilling in me this belief that how I treat others will reflect how they treat me. This whole concept came to play at large when I was in the 5th grade. I went to a private school, and grew up with the same forty-seven kids. We learned together, grew together, and experienced many different things that life had to offer together. It was at that time in 5th grade I realized that something was different. Something was not the same, we didn’t always learn together, and grow together, in fact sometimes some of us were separated.
Now looking back on my experiences, I now know that there were two students with disabilities in my class. However, it was in that instance, the moment I realized they were different that I made a choice. Inclusion and acceptance is a choice, it is always a choice to be kind, and nurturing or to be cruel and hateful. So I decided to befriend them, to invite them to be on my team, to sit with them, to include them. I didn’t do this because someone asked me to, I simply did it because it was what I believed to be the right thing. A couple years later I transferred schools, and wondered what happened to the two girls I once played with. Did they go on to college? Did they find a job? Were they happy? These were all the questions I asked myself. It was also in that moment that I watched an organization grow, an organization that could potentially answer some of my questions.
“The Next Step Programs INC., (TNS) was founded in 2015 with the goal to create more opportunities for individuals with disabilities after high school.” The truth is that many of these children simply do not get the opportunities they rightfully deserve once they aged out of the school system. The resources aren’t there, and more times than not, they are left in the dark. TNS works to bring them into the light, and help them reach their full potential. For three years now TNS has had an annual banquet fundraiser, to raise money so that new programs can be launched, and new ideas can be funded. The night is: spectacular, its inspiring, heartwarming, and informative. Guests have the chance to learn about what TNS has been doing, and our goals for the future.
This year I am more than just a guest, as I have been working on the banquet fundraiser as the Intern to the Executive Director. For me, TNS is such a big part of my future as a college student studying special education. It is my sincere hope that students will come through my classroom, and then go on to receive opportunities from TNS.
Additionally, the fundraiser holds a special place in my heart for more than just my love and desire to help those with disabilities. This past August my father passed away suddenly, leaving me with not much to believe in. TNS has given me back the drive and passion to do what I love, help those with disabilities. Our banquet fundraiser this year is in honor of my Dad, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the night has in store.
So on June 14, 2017 if you are looking for something to do, to sit and listen to the amazing things this organization is doing, or to help in some way please go to tnsprograms.org and purchase tickets for the event. It is sure to be a night of good food, good company, great raffles, and inspiration for the future of individuals living with disabilities.
Executive Director and Co- Founder of TNS, Josh Fields comments on what TNS means to him. “TNS is more than just my vision for what opportunities for individuals with disabilities holds. It's about changing perceptions about the disability community in society. It's about standing up for those who are so ready to make an impact in our communities. It's about pushing the world to the next step, and that next step is a place that I see in the not so distant future where my friends with disabilities flourish beyond all ends, and show the world the abilities each and every human holds." Please go to tnsprograms.org to purchase tickets!