Spreading the Word to End the Word

Student Council and West Friends plan activities for Inclusion Week


Photo by Dana Summers

Special Education teacher Sara Wiese-Johnson assists her students in hanging up the inclusion poster outside of the ACP classrooms. “Today’s youth are leading the way in empowering change and we know when we #choosetoinclude, we are all better together and perceptions change,” Wiese-Johnson said. “The sign provides a visual reminder that if we all work together we can engage and activate this strategy and promote school communities of respect and dignity.”

Dana Summers, News Director

As a part of their annual tradition, Student Council teamed up with West Friends to plan out activities for this year’s Inclusion Week. From Monday March 1 to Friday, March 5, they encouraged others to participate in several spirit days and to sign the inclusion pledge.

Various announcements and posters throughout the halls advertised the spirit days: Monday as Crazy Sock Day, Tuesday as Sports/Jersey Day, Wednesday as a Blue-out (as blue is the official color for “Spread the Word to End the Word” day), Thursday as Western Day and Friday as Teacher/Student Swap Day. These spirit days brought attention to the importance of the week, and reminded students to take part in the special event at lunch.

“During lunch every day, we set up this table with a poster that people can sign,” senior and Student Council Co-President Rami Hanash said. “It’s basically saying that you’ll spread inclusion, stop judging people by their physical ability and that you’ll stop saying the r-word. Usually, we get the booth in the cafeteria, but we had to adjust our location this year due to COVID regulations.”

Another driving force behind this event was sophomore Tayler Hand, who is involved in both groups that helped plan out this inclusion week. 

“Along with Student Council and West Friends, I’m involved in a group for Special Olympics Nebraska called the Youth Activation Committee,” Hand said. “We do a lot around Nebraska for the Unified community, and so I wanted to bring two clubs together here to promote ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ week. The Youth Activation Committee was then able to provide us with stickers and wristbands for our table.”

The nicely laid out table was eye catching enough to attract passing students. Many, whether they knew about the event ahead of time or not, chose to sign the pledge to include.

“I saw the poster as I was walking in the hallway, and I kind of stopped by and talked to the people running it about what it meant,” senior Delaney Richardson said. “I chose to sign it because I thought it was a really important message. I think physically putting your name on a pledge like this kind of keeps you accountable to be more inclusive. Seeing all of the signatures on the poster could also be really helpful to let other students know how many people are here for them.”

The signature-filled poster will be hung up outside of the ACP classroom as a daily reminder to those passing by. Ultimately, the goal of this pledge was to promote more inclusive language in people’s everyday lives.

“The r-word especially has kind of become kind of normalized nowadays,” Hand said. “Ever since people started doing activities like this to promote inclusion, I’ve personally heard it a lot less. It’s a word that can be really hurtful to people in our community, so I think it’s important for people to be more mindful of their words. Above all, I think people should really just be kind to everyone no matter who they are.” 

A yearly event, the 2021 Inclusion week was a success. The participation in the different spirit days drew attention to the cause, and the many signatures on the pledge gives hope for a more inclusive school environment.