Student advocate calls for inclusivity

By Madelyn R. Brown - Staff Reporter



 

The world needs to be more inclusive; a place where those with disabilities, and those without, can be accepted, a Highline student said last week. 

Helen Nash, a Highline student who has Down Syndrome, spoke last Thursday on "The Intersections of Inclusion" as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  This year's theme is "Intersectionality." 

When people look at themselves, they are not just their race, gender or disability, said Garick Sherburn, a faculty member for the Achieve program, who introduced Nash.  Achieve works with students who face challenges in their education.

"When thinking about intersectionality, we're talking about how [our experiences of discrimination] overlap," he said. 

Nash encouraged the audience to openly communicate. 

"We need more people to speak for us, and with us," she said.

Nash spoke about her experiences growing up.

"When I was born, no one [in my family] knew that I had a disability—including myself," Nash said. "It all started when I was a little girl." 

In middle school, her teachers tried to place her in a contained classroom, she said. 

But, thanks to her parents, this decision was resisted, and Nash ended up in a normal learning environment. 

"I made many friends while I was there," she said. "Most of them did not have a disability like me. Some did." 

It was during the last two weeks of her junior year of high school that things really changed, Nash said. It was here, where she met a fellow student named Liam. 

He introduced Nash to the concept of disability inclusion by telling her of his own experiences in a contained classroom.    

"Liam's class was isolated from the school," she said. "Some days they ate [by themselves,] because they had a different schedule than the rest of us." 

The treatment that students such as Liam experienced angered Nash, especially when the teachers stopped allowing her to eat lunch with them.

But things were different when she came to Highline. 

"Now, I have a boyfriend [Liam], and everything I know about myself has changed," Nash said. 

"I want to make the world more like Highline," she said. "[Because] this college is a truly inclusive community." 

However, more can always be done, she said. 

To all students, faculty, and staff: "help create more unified activities in [our] community," Nash said. "Fight for us."  

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