SEARSMONT – Students at Ames Elementary School spent parts of Monday engaged in different group activities. People from the Cromwell Center for Disability Awareness, a non-profit that began in 2004, paid a visit.
“The program is focused on helping kids to understand that disability is just one way that we’re different it’s just one aspect of human diversity,” said Susan Greenwood, the Cromwell Center’s executive director.
Staff from the center travel the state working with children in first through fifth grade in their effort to “try to build more inclusive schools and communities by working with kids when they’re young,” Greenwood said.
Last year, more than 16,000 students were able to take part. Through various group activities, classmates work with one another to learn how it feels to be excluded or treated differently.
“Because we’re teaching kids that disability is just one way that we’re different, really the messages are transferable to any difference,” Greenwood said.
Teachers said they have seen how kids have grown from the program.
“After this, they’re more open. They’re taught a few tools of how to go about that. How to bring them into the circle of friendship so that those students don’t feel that they’re left out,” said Christina Bandy, a teacher at Ames Elementary School.
Greenwood said the biggest challenge is being able to raise enough funds to bring the program to every school that asks.