A Special Place for Everyone
All clubs, sports, and groups are important to all students to cultivate a sense of belonging.
December 9, 2016
Being part of a team and having support from peers and classmates is an indescribable feeling of solidarity. Sophomore Bethany Bleim, a cheerleader with special needs at Round Lake High School (RLHS) knows this feeling well. She said, “It’s so fun, it makes me really happy.” She excitedly described how walking onto the football field and hearing the crowd cheer makes her feel—happy, positive, and important. Her eyes sparkled and she smiled from ear to ear when she spoke of her experiences with the cheer team.
As a school, unity is one of the most important principles that should be valued. Togetherness should be top priority, regardless of any challenges that these students may face. All students should be able to be rewarded the chance to do something that makes them happy.
Students with special needs who attend RLHS, have had the amazing opportunity to more involved in more extracurriculars and sports than in years past.“It would be great if students could spread the word about Panther Pals and Allied teams,” said Lisa Zachwieja, a special education teacher for the Educational Life Skills Program at RLHS. The promotion of these clubs is a very important thing, it will spread positivity throughout the school and make all students involved feel acknowledged.
“We have an integrated club called Panther Pals where general education students attend alongside my students,” Zachwieja said. This club can be beneficial to all students and can give all a chance to get to know one another and be more involved, becoming closer than they’ve ever been. Panther Pals is currently on hold and students can get more information from Patricia Kolodziej or Zachwieja. “When Panther Pals is in session, it’s like a regular club,” said Zachwieja. “The general education and special education students meet on Wednesday afternoons from 3:20-5:00 to interact in different sporting activities.”
Anna Veksler, who is in charge of the dance club here at Round Lake High School says that RLHS is really proud that the club is open to all students with different ability levels. “It’s great to see all the kids working together on a common goal,” Veksler said. Dance club meets Tuesday and Wednesday after school from 3:30 to 5:00. Students usually dance in the B hall. “Dance club makes me feel good,” Junior Jorge Romero said.
Not only is there Panther Pals, there are a couple Allied teams as well, which are teams for students with special needs. “I like soccer,” Junior Alma Flores said. “It’s really fun it makes me happy.” These Allied teams give students with special needs the chance to do what every other student gets to do. These hard-working students play their hearts out and really enjoy what they do. Allied soccer will begin in March, and Allied bowling will begin next fall. “Anyone who wants to join soccer would attend one practice and one game per week for 4-6 weeks,” Zachwieja said, “General education students would be on the field for games alongside the students with special needs, but would only act as coaches. They wouldn’t actually play the game.”
“Each student is at a very different level,” said Zachwieja. “It is challenging to meet each individual need in every subject area.” That is why these teams and clubs are so important. These students get the chance to forget all of the challenges that may be faced in the classroom and focus more on working together and having fun. It’s about togetherness and the understanding of how each individual student brings something valuable to the team, that everyone has something special about them. It shows that every student has something to offer.
With the right amount of support and hard work, the possibilities are endless. Maybe someday we’ll have Allied everything and all students will have the same opportunities as one another. Once everyone supports and appreciates what every student, club, and sport does, only then will RLHS be at its peak.
“Looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, expanding possibilities.” -unknown