Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

High School Program Unites Traditional, Special Education StudentsSubmitted: 04/01/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


MINOCQUA - You might think of special education in schools as a group isolated from the rest of the student body.

But in Minocqua, thanks to a unique group, it's the exact opposite.

"Some people are nice to me, some people are not," says special education student Shawn Ravey.

For students in special education, fitting in at high school can be tough.

"I need someone to talk to," he says.

At Lakeland Union High School, Shawn and other special ed students have not only someone to talk to, but much more.

"They're completely just like us. We have friendships, and, maybe we don't hang out every weekend, but just seeing them that one class period makes your whole day. People are like, how do you do that, and I'm like, how do you not?" asks Natalie Sell.

It's called Circle of Friends.

If you look on the school's website, it's listed under Activities, like Forensics or Student Newspaper.

But, makes clear Special Education Instructor Carolyn Brusch, "we're not a club. We're not a project. People make friends in natural situations. It isn't episodic. It's daily."

Every day, high schoolers with a more traditional curriculum spend part of their day in Carolyn Brusch's special education room - with their friends.

"You feel like you're helping someone in their life. You feel like you're making them feel like they have somewhere to belong," says Lakeland senior RaChell Morenweiser.

There's no division here between "normal" and "special" students.

Instead, they just do what friends do, like play games, tell stories, work together on homework, maybe a few chores, and even hit the gym.

Over the decades, special education went from nonexistent in public schools to, later, a segregated area for a segregated group at a segregated time.

Brusch has seen the evolution during her 27 years at Lakeland.

"Nobody wanted to be special anymore. They wanted to be a part of the group. That's what I like about Circle of Friends," she says. "I think it's an acknowledgement that we really have more in common than we do different, and really all people belong together."

The idea only works because of the enthusiasm of what Brusch calls her TA's.

"My TA's are great. That's the beautiful part of it. I can use each part of their personalities, each of their strengths, and each of their talents."

Each one is in Brusch's room, with her students, every day.

"I go in there, and R.J. has a nickname for me. He calls me 'Gingy'. We have nicknames, we joke around, we have fun. It's really about the relationships that you build with each of them," says Kate Herzog.

For some TA's, the idea of Circle of Friends was something new.

"I would always see them, and they'd be like, 'oh, hey Missy!' So they would always come up to me. So I didn't know how to get involved, really," says Missy Johnson.

But now that she's in the circle, "I spend Wednesdays through Fridays, all afternoon in there."

"Being in high school, it's always about fitting in, and having your group of friends that you can relate with and hang out with, and do fun things with. I just thought it would be cool to do that with everyone in this room and make them feel like anyone else walking through the hallway," says RaChell.

But you see, RaChell might have a little closer connection than some of the other TA's.

"I personally know how it feels to be treated differently by other people just because of my appearance - with a wheelchair."

It's brought her closer to her friends in the circle.

"Some kids in here learn different ways, just like I get around."

The TA's definitely have a big impact on their special ed friends.

But don't think for a moment it only goes one way.

"I was thinking about graduating the other day, and I think I'm going to miss them the most out of anyone in this school, because they mean so much to us," says Natalie.

"I have students who were TA's that graduated who still will text me, or they'll Snapchat with R.J., or will do Facetime with Hannah," says Brusch.

"The feeling of belonging, just like any other high school student, they know, you know?" says RaChell.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

ANTIGO - People hoping to use the Antigo library will need to find a different location for the next month.

+ Read More

Play Video

TOMAHAWK - It doesn't look like the candidates for northern Wisconsin's seat in Congress can agree on a debate schedule just yet. 

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Weston) said earlier this week he wants two debates, one in Superior and one in Wausau.

But that's apparently not enough for his democratic challenger. Mary Hoeft said she wants six debates.
Originally Hoeft said she wanted a debate in all 26 counties in the district.

"But people said to me, Mary, when you make this request to the Duffy campaign, make it reasonable," Hoeft said. "So alright I went in my head from 26 down to six." 

Hoeft said more debates would help voters make a more informed decision when they go to the polls. 

"But I'm happier than if he had said zero," Hoeft said. "But I'm not going to stop, though. I'm going to ask the people of the 7th Congressional District, if you want more forums, make sure that your voice is heard."

Hoeft hosted a meet and greet in Tomahawk Wednesday morning. She addressed a group of about 20 people. 

+ Read More

MADISON - Concerns about treatment of veterans at Wisconsin's largest veterans home will be investigated.

The co-chairs of the Legislature's Audit Committee said Wednesday they support approving an audit for the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.

+ Read More

RHINELANDER - Trig's Smokehouse in Rhinelander hired 15 new employees to start a second shift. Supervisor Geremiah Young remembers the early days of Trig's Smokehouse. He's worked there since 2009 which was before the plant on Stevens Street was even built.

"We had one little stuffer and now we've got two lines going and looking to possibly get more," said Young.

That demand for more was enough to add a second shift and 15 new jobs at the Smokehouse.

"We're fairly excited about for this second shift. It means a lot more of our product is getting out to the world and we're very excited for that," said Young.

Getting out tons of new product may be more accurate.

"We're doing about 4,000 pounds of just bratwurst and with the first shift, they were doing about 3,000 pounds of sticks. Throughout both shifts I know we can do a maximum of that and right now we're going through quite a bit," said Young.

The day shift goes from 6am-2:30pm when the second shift comes in and takes over right away, making the shift change relatively smooth.

"We've got one person coming in and one person steps out. We exchange what we were doing for the day, what products were ran during the day and we continue on from there," said Young.

With the 15 new night time employees, training can be a challenge. 

"Training… it's going… it's like anybody else, you come off the street and this is a whole different ballgame from what they're used to," said Young.

In addition to the 15 hired employees, the Smokehouse is still looking for about six more.

"It's a fun, fast-paced environment. If you think you've got it, come on in. But be prepared for the cold."

+ Read More

LAC DU FLAMBEAU - People die from heroin overdoses every day throughout the U.S., and it's a problem we see here in the Northwoods as well. 

That's why Lac Du Flambeau hosted it's first Overdose Awareness Day to help people learn more about drug addiction.

"Having lost my sister last year, and other families that lost loved ones like that, an awareness and education needs to be done in Indian Communities," said organizer Jeanne Wolfe. 
 
A special agent gave a presentation about heroin.

Afterwards the people at the event could talk about ways to prevent drug use in the community.

The event was also a way to deal with grief.

"Nothing has really been done to recognize or talk about our sorrow and the loss a person goes through when somebody dies unexpectedly like that," Wolfe said. 

Wolfe hopes to host the event again next year.


+ Read More

Play Video

MANITOWISH WATERS - If you don't like getting your hands dirty you might want to avoid Manitowish Waters this weekend.

"Right away we're getting them nice and muddy and dirty and then they continue their jaunt for four miles," chamber director Sarah Pischer said.

Wednesday, workers created 12 obstacles -- some high in the air, some low to the ground -- for the fifth-annual Northwoods Bad Dash Mud Run.  Pischer says volunteers build new challenges for racers every year.

"We wouldn't be able to do things like this, we're not carpenters and we really appreciate all the help we've had in past years from all our volunteers," Pischer said.

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - A fire left some minor damage to a business in Antigo earlier today.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here