Passion is what drives a person to be the best version of themselves each and every day. When someone shows interest in something or finds their niche in the world, they use all that they have in them to dedicate themselves fully to whatever their chosen thing may be. One thing that I have been consistently passionate about in my daily life is making the world a better place for all of those who live in it. I strive to create and encourage a universal design for all, ensuring that no matter each and every person’s difference or their individual level of capability, despite how low or high it may be, the population can enjoy life and experience all that it has to offer.
Accommodating for equality is crucial for the people in our society to thrive and be filled with an overwhelming sense of happiness each day they are granted. I am beyond passionate about the importance of the inclusion of all, children and students especially, within a classroom or day to day life setting. Including everyone, despite the disabilities they may have, allows for those with and without disabilities to interact and learn from each other, ultimately building social skills and learning as well as perfecting the tools that are necessary to function in a daily setting within the modern world. I was not always extremely passionate about working in the field of special education and being hands on with children who possess intellectual and physical disabilities, as it took one significant experience to trigger this all inside of me into furthering my love of making the world a better place in any way that I can.
Last summer I worked at the YMCA Camp Gordon Clark program, where I was a counselor in charge of five and 6-year-olds throughout nine weeks of time. When I was first hired, I came in understanding that this camp was an inclusive camp, meaning children with disabilities were allowed to attend, and would be intermingled with the other campers, some of whom had disabilities themselves, and others who did not. The first week that I worked at my new job, all 25 campers that I was in charge of had no disabilities noted, however one did. She had down syndrome, and little did I know she would end up changing my life forever. The other counselors that helped me with these children had never interacted with a child who had disabilities before, and neither had I. But, I knew someone was going to have to step up and have the courage to include, acknowledge and care for this little girl, because despite her differences, she mattered just as much as those other campers did.
So I did it. That first day at camp I took her by the hand and ever since that day I became her best friend, and she became mine. Her speech is limited, but luckily for me, had known basic sign language, so I was able to communicate with her all summer and understand what she needed and how she was feeling during the week. Not only was I there to understand her, but I was there to show her love and compassion as well. She taught me patience, acceptance, and most importantly that every day is a new day, and despite what happened in the past hours, there was always more time ahead of us to make progress and learn from our mistakes. Not only did she teach me these things, but she taught me who I really was, and what my place is in this world.
Ever since I met her over a year ago, she has shown me that I need to stand for those who can not stand up for themselves, and I must speak and advocate for those who remain silent and lack the proper skills to communicate how they are feeling. Without an opportunity like working with this specific camper, I would not be as informed or understanding as I am today, so for that I owe her a big thank you. Thank you for making me the accepting, passionate and determined person I am today, and most importantly, thank you for showing me that just because someone is different that doesn’t mean they are less important or human than anyone else.