Awareness and acceptance were at the heart of the Capstone project of Evelyn Durkin, Claire Leingang, McKenzie Reid and Kate Schinaman.
The Chaminade Julienne seniors focused on “Action for Inclusivity,” reaching out to members of the CJ community and beyond, to address the importance of respect and inclusion for those with developmental disabilities.
“We came up with this project because it was centered around a social justice issue that is very close to our hearts,” Leingang said. “Most of the members in my group, including myself, have relatives or close family friends who live with developmental disabilities. We have also witnessed discrimination and ignorant comments made regarding the Cuvilly program at CJ, especially during our freshmen and sophomore years. We believed it was imperative that we took on this project to enlighten our school community about the devastating effects of the disability stigma, to inspire others to take action when they hear derogatory comments about disabilities, and to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and respectful environment overall.”
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in six children aged 3-17 years were diagnosed with a developmental disability, as reported by parents, during the study period between 2009-17 – an increase over previous years.
Schinaman knows, firsthand, how important inclusivity is as her cousin has Down syndrome.
“I have always been very passionate about the topic of inclusion and respect, and I have undertaken many projects over the years regarding ending the r-word and promoting kindness and inclusion,” Schinaman said. “My main inspiration for this passion is the special bond I have with my cousin, Davis, who has Down syndrome. We have always been extremely close, and he motivates me to be a part of the change that makes the world a better place for all kinds of people.”
From conducting a school-wide survey to creating podcasts and a website, the group members found a variety of ways to share their message.
“The seniors designed and implemented an exceptional project of service outreach combined with secondary and firsthand research to amplify their voices on the importance of creating an inclusive community,” said Molly Bardine, Chaminade Julienne Capstone coordinator. “The website is an excellent resource and it challenges us to think about the roles we all play in being an inclusive advocate for others.”
The group members concentrated on the Catholic social teachings of Solidarity and Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
“We believe wholeheartedly that, as Catholics, it is our duty and our responsibility to ensure that each human life is treated with dignity and respect and that everyone has their basic needs met,” Leingang said. “We are called to stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ and to lead by example, celebrating, accepting, and loving our differences and the people that God created us to be.”
Prior service experiences – including work with 4 Paws for Ability, a local non-profit organization that places service dogs – provided a strong foundation for the group’s work.
“Our inspiration for this project was based on meaningful experiences, previous research, and witnessing negative treatment of neurodiverse people,” Reid said. “We believe that a lack of knowledge on disability awareness is prevalent in our society.”
And change, so often, begins at home.
“We saw that there is a need for change in our world when it comes to disability awareness,” Durkin said. “It has to start somewhere and we felt it best to start with making a change in our own CJ community.”
To learn more about Action for Inclusivity, visit this website.
--This story was published on May 6, 2021.