Creating Opportunities for Inclusion and Social Connection

Hearing and valuing every voice has always been an integral part of the ASH philosophy and with the formal adoption of this in our mission last year, it has become an even more important focus in everything we do. Inclusion is a significant part of life at ASH and living out this mission of hearing and valuing every voice. We are proud to offer a wide range of programs that accommodate and ensure every learner at ASH thrives. This also applies to co-curricular activities and today we want to highlight the amazing work being done by the IncludeASH club. The goal of this club is to try and find social connections for our special education students with their peers. They participate in a wide range of activities together from: sports, art, trivia, watching movies and many more. Maria and Belén are two of the student leaders in the club and they shared with us their journey with IncludeASH, including their biggest learnings and challenges that have come along the way.

“For those who do not know us, we are Maria and Belén, both IB seniors and last year we began the IncludeASH club with the purpose to promote inclusion and to provide special education students with a safe space where they have the opportunity to socialize and hang out with other high school students while participating in fun activities. This idea originated when we realized that students in special education have limited opportunities in high school. Our supervisors, Ms. Gardner, Ms. Romains and Ms. Butleel, kindly offered to support us, help us adapt activities to the students' needs and supervise the activities.  

Additionally, Belén has a smaller sister with learning disabilities, and through her work with students with Autism and Down syndrome, she realized that she wanted to offer more inclusive possibilities where students could build a relationship with other students and faculty in the ASH community while doing fun activities. We want to create a community where students feel comfortable and enjoy themselves with fun activities like baking or playing sports. 

Meeting once or twice a month on Fridays, all activities are done as a group, and we always meet after school in the HSSE classroom. The activities are both on and off-campus, in recreational and public areas. We fundraise throughout the year for material expenses by baking on Mondays for the famous Trojan Cafe. Some examples of activities we did before COVID-19 were decorating cookies, playing basketball and board games and painting. A challenge we faced due to COVID-19 restrictions was still organizing activities that the members of the club wanted to do, but that was safe and COVID friendly. However, we ended up meeting on Google Meet and played online Kahoots and Pictionary, which everyone truly loved as we could still socialize and catch up with each other. 

Our biggest learning that we have taken from being involved in IncludeASH is that our differences are what makes us unique and it is what connects us all. The thing that we are most proud of is that all members are super energetic and passionate about it. It is lovely to see the tight knit community that we have created and all the forgettable connections we made. We were honoured to have the opportunity to make a club that means so much to those involved, and with the help of Juliette and Gur, next year's leaders, it will continue to grow. 

We would like to thank all the members in IncludeASH for making this experience amazing and to tell new students considering getting involved that you definitely won't regret it. Everyone is super kind and looking to make new friends, and all the activities are different and fun.”