ANSONIA — Each spring the junior and senior students from Ansonia High School coordinate a picnic fundraiser titled “Pay It Forward.” The goal of this fundraiser is to raise money to donate to a local service need.
This year they were able to tie their fundraiser to an English reading assignment titled “Flowers for Algernon.” This story was written in the late 1950s about a man with intellectual disabilities named Charly Gordon. In the story, Charly undergoes an experimental procedure to obtain normal intelligence. The students gained insight to Charly’s thoughts and feelings through his journal entries as he gains intelligence and eventually regresses back to his original IQ.
“Casey Robison, junior English teacher, was reading the book on her computer, when she received a Facebook notification from the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Darke DD),” said a spokesperson. “Curious and a bit taken aback by the coincidence, she went to Darke DD’s Facebook page and read many wonderful stories about the contributions that people with disabilities are making in Darke County. It was in that moment that she considered connecting the picnic fundraiser to the book and connecting both of these to Darke DD.”
As Mary Lochtefeld, senior English teacher said, “It was kismet!”
Robison contacted Sue Huston, Darke DD Community Connections coordinator.
“We were thrilled to be selected,” said Huston, “particularly since Darke DD had just petitioned the Greenville Kiwanis Club to begin an AKtion Club – a service leadership program for individuals with disabilities. We have nearly 50 members and this donation will help us get up and running and allow us to further ‘pay it forward’ to other Darke County needs.“
The teachers invited Darke DD to speak with the junior and senior classes about DD awareness. Huston reviewed the historical treatment of people with disabilities and how tremendous progress has been made through education, acceptance and inclusion. She showed a PowerPoint highlighting stories of how individuals are contributing to their communities through working and volunteering.
Ruby Sacher shared her personal stories and insights regarding her disability and how it affected her experiences with going to school, working, volunteering and being a single mother. She spoke about the difficulties she has endured as well as the successes she has achieved on her journey to meeting personal dreams and goals. Ruby was able to connect to the students when sharing her struggles with applying to college, getting through the entrance tests and with her excitement of passing the tests and being enrolled in Edison Community College. Ruby works 25 hours a week, volunteers weekly and is the president of AKtion Club.
In closing, Huston encouraged the students to remember that, as members of their community, they can continue to embrace and support people with disabilities.
Huston said, “We are changing the culture one person at a time and these kids are the future. They are the future business owners and HR managers that may hire someone with a disability. They may be coworkers, neighbors, friends and relatives of someone with a disability. They inspire us and give us great hope that one day all people with disabilities will live, work, go to school and volunteer in their communities alongside everyone else.”
Sacher said, “This is a great group of kids who invited us to come to their picnic and to hang out for the day! I am so happy they donated to our cause. We are looking forward to our first AKtion Club meeting so we can decide just how we will pay it forward.”
Continue following the journey with AKtion Club by liking its Facebook page Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
Anyone interested in learning more about partnering with the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities for employment opportunities, Bridges to Transition, inclusion and/or volunteerism can contact Rodney Willis, Community First Director at 937-459-4626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Darke DD visit the website at www.darkedd.org.