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Students partner with Monarch to help raise awareness for DD Month

epiphany schoolThe Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern, N.C. is partnering with Monarch to help raise awareness during Developmental Disabilities Month. Their 5k team, “Footprints for a Change,” has organized a program for chapel on March 14 where Laura Shumate, a participant of Monarch’s Day program at Health Drive, will speak to students about her life and interests.

Their presentation will allow the students to highlight the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign through Special Olympics Project Unify, an education-based project that uses sports and educational programs to advocate for those living with disabilities. After chapel, the Epiphany students will have the chance to sign a banner pledging to stop using the R-word.

The Footprints for a Change team started last September when a group of sixth grade students approached Epiphany’s Director of Community Engagement, Cille Griffith after hearing a derogatory comment made about a child with a disability. The comment bothered them so much they decided to channel their response in a positive direction.

Together Griffith and the students decided to host a 5k race to benefit RHA Howell, an organization that provides residential services for those living with disabilities, in New Bern. Through the race they raised $11,000 and were able to donate a technology table, a device similar to a smart board but on legs, to RHA Howell for their residents to use. The students were so encouraged by the community support they have another 5k scheduled on Sept. 20, and the funds raised from it will go towards creating a sensory room for participants at Monarch’s Health Drive and new playground equipment for RHA Howell.

Savannah Sparks, a student and member of the Footprints for a Change club, said DD Awareness is an important issue for her and her fellow club members and she hopes through the chapel people will learn to stop using the R-word. “There are many people in this world who are different from our standards of ‘normal,’ and we want to end the judgment and help people learn more about their situations,” Sparks said.

Griffith echoed Sparks, noting that the students of the club want to connect with those living with disabilities “in a way that is open and accepting and to be able to pass that on to others.” This acceptance is also something Griffith hopes will hit home for the rest of the student body. “We just want people to see those living with disabilities as human beings with similar interests as theirs. I think this opportunity for connection and interaction will help create new attitudes,” she said.

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