HULL — Interim Superintendent Judith Kuehn and Director of Athletics and Community Outreach Scott Paine are pleased to announce that a select group of Hull High School students have been taking part in a project meant to increase awareness around the importance of inclusion and changing culture to be more welcoming and supportive to students with disabilities.
In partnership with the Andrew James Lawson Foundation, the school recently launched a pilot program that offers a six-week after-school class in memory of Lawson, a Norwell Public Schools student with Down syndrome who was 27 years old when he passed away in 2018 after a two year battle with cancer. Lawson participated in multiple sports at Norwell High School, and after graduation was a guest speaker at a course on disabilities at Hull High School.
The class, which began Monday, Jan. 27, is taught by Lisa Drennan, an expert in supporting community organizations to be more inclusive in their practices of people with disabilities. She founded MERGE, Diverse Abilities Inclusion Consulting, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, in 2018.
Students took part in four of the six weeks before schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Topics covered in the class include defining the meaning of inclusion, learning about different disabilities such as autism or Down syndrome, understanding that language matters, overcoming barriers and fears around interacting with people with disabilities, and creating a school culture where students and their peers with disabilities are valued.
An additional component for the class was for students to think of a project they could implement in the school. Together as a class, they came up with the idea to encourage classmates to be more welcoming to students from the special education program, inviting them to join in at their lunch tables rather than sitting by themselves or with their staff.
“The members of the class recognized that students in the special education program often sit alone or with their teachers at lunch, and I can’t think of a more appropriate way for the students to take what they’ve learned in the class and put it into practice in a concrete way,” Drennan said. “It’s such a terrific way to promote inclusion and make the school a more welcoming place for all. The students in the class are already thinking about how they can change the culture at the school for the better.”
Once Hull High School reopens, students in the class will wrap up their session with a guest speaker, Matt Breen, a friend of Andrew Lawson, who will share about their friendship and how they experienced inclusion in high school. They will also be asked to look back and evaluate what they’ve learned and how their perception of inclusion has changed since the class began.
Students from the class are expected to present their lessons to the Hull School Committee at a later date following the conclusion of the program.
Drennan said the success of the program at Hull High School has already made her eager to extend classes to more schools on the South Shore in the future.
“I am thrilled with the success of this program so far,” Interim superintendent Kuehn said. “The class is teaching our students how to be more inclusive and understanding, which are lessons we should all be reminded of every day. I look forward to seeing the ways in which these students put these lessons into practice, both at school and beyond.”
To make a donation to the Andrew James Lawson Foundation, go here and click the “DONATE” button.