After Greensboro Day School middle school teacher Angela Ballou learned about No Barriers from a colleague, she was thrilled to learn she had earned a spot to attend the summer training in 2018.
The mission of No Barriers is to “unleash the potential of the human spirit.” Ballou attended the three-day No Barriers Summit last year with 19 other middle and high school educators from around the country.
Back in Greensboro, she recruited a team of students to develop a program that fostered creativity while addressing local diversity, accessibility and inclusion challenges.
The group developed a program called “Buddy Break” that eventually earned them a $1,000 grant to implement the program.
“We came up with the idea to remove barriers between people with disabilities and those without,” Anna Lewis said.
“The plan was to teach kids without disabilities how to interact with kids who have disabilities,” Sam Head said.
The team was made up of eighth-grade girls. That wasn’t intentional; it just happened that way, Ballou said. Their program was inspired by a group that Anna Lewis, one of the members, was in that worked with children with disabilities.
Payton Wagner said it was a long process to get the program narrowed down to exactly what they were going to do and how they would do it. The girls interviewed people who work with those with disabilities and spent some time at Impact Journey School to get to know some of the students there. Impact Journey School is a nonprofit school that teaches and serves students with language and developmental disabilities from pre-K up to ninth grade. They will continue partnering with Impact Journey School as the program moves forward.
Members of the Greensboro Day School group have paired themselves up with students at Impact Journey School and are beginning to spend time with the students there. They are working on developing relationships with the students at Impact Journey School and learning more about themselves in the process.
Ellis Parr also said that she didn’t have any experience interacting with kids with special needs before she joined the group. But she saw her friends getting involved and felt that she should step outside of her comfort zone and join.
“I saw myself change as I got to know the kids there,” Ellis said.
For Allie Bensimhon, the program hit a little closer to home.
“I’ve had hearing loss since I was 4 and have had hearing aids. I’ve always had an interest in people with disabilities,” Allie said. When Ballou asked her about joining the group, Allie didn’t hesitate.
The girls said that they are forming friendships with their buddies. They give more one-on-one attention to the younger students but with the older ones they are able to do more group activities.
Ballou said she is most impressed with the time that the girls have dedicated to this important work. She said that all the girls are carrying heavy academic loads as well as many extracurriculars, but have all made the sacrifice necessary to make the program work.
“By the time we left Impact Journey School, the girls were nonstop talking and wanted to stay all day,” Ballou said.
All 16 girls plan to see the program through as they enter into high school next year. They said they believe this program is important and will have a positive effect on the community.
“When I went to Impact Journey, I had a smile on my face all day because I knew I was doing something good,” Ellis said.