Pictured are, from left DCVI Inclusion Team members Skylar Algra, Johanna Hainer, Raelyn Marshall, Team leader Bailey Wiffen, Jaron Camp and DCVI Principal April Smith.
By Dan Rankin
Prior to hearing about 2016 budget highlights and learning about the Queen Street reconstruction, local industry representatives gathered for breakfast at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club March 30 saw a presentation from a group of DCVI students committed to making their school and the community as a whole a more inclusive place to live and work.
DCVI Inclusion Team Leader Bailey Wiffen said their goal is “to create a positive, inclusive learning environment that not only recognizes everyone’s differences, but builds on their strengths.”
“We believe that everyone belongs and can work together,” she said.
Coun. Jim Craigmile introduced the high school’s Inclusion Team, who was responsible for bringing breakdancer and motivational speaker Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli to DCVI in February, saying that he felt their message “is current, and one that’s at the forefront of a lot of conversations of human resource departments in all facilities.”
DCVI Principal April Smith, who also spoke on behalf of the group, said the Inclusion Team’s goals and deeds are also unique from what she’s seen at other schools where she has worked.
“The conversations that happen at DCVI are not typical of conversations that I’ve heard in the hallways at other high schools,” Smith said. “These guys are talking to their peers about the differences in sexuality and religion and abilities, but in a very informed and intelligent way. They are challenging their peers about having conversations.”
She said the Team is functioning “almost like ambassadors in their own classrooms.”
“I’m proud of them for that,” Smith said. “These people are actually leading the way in our school. The adults are doing their best to support them. They are challenging us in incredible way.”
Taking their turns to speak, members of the team including Wiffen, Jaron Camp, Raelyn Marshall, Johanna Hainer and Skylar Algra took turns explaining what it means to them to be inclusive, and showed several videos they’ve produced on the subject, which can be found on the Avon Maitland DSB YouTube Channel.
“No one should be left behind, and although we all learn and interact differently, we should all be provided with the same opportunity and feel safe in our community,” Wiffen said.
Looking ahead, she said that an event the Team would like to hold is a lunch at the school during which kids could learn to communicate using the ProLoQuo2Go system, a collection of pictures, symbols and words used to communicate by people who have difficulty speaking. “During the lunch we will only be allowed to communicate using this assisted technology,” Wiffen said. “We want to eliminate physical barriers for our peers and we want to make all common areas more accessible.”
They are also keeping a close eye on the Queen Street reconstruction. “We want to let people know what is going on and what barriers were eliminated,” she said. “We believe that change is possible. We are looking forward to seeing how you can make change happen.”
Smith also described how the students have paid visits to South Perth Centennial and Little Falls Public School to spread their message. “Many of those teachers have taken on the message and have gotten involved,” she said. “They’ve tweeted us some stories about changes they’ve made in their classrooms.”
The Inclusion Team invites the community to “Join the Conversation” about inclusion by tweeting at them, @DCVIinclusion.