Loading

52°F

53°F

57°F

56°F

52°F

57°F

57°F

56°F

50°F

57°F

57°F

58°F
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

WAUSAU - The Neighbor's Place Food Pantry in Wausau worries its hours make it difficult for people to get the food they need.

Right now, the pantry is open until 5 o'clock Monday through Thursday and until 2o'clock on Fridays. Those hours may not work for people who need to work during the day.

+ Read More

EAGLE RIVER - The first-ever ATV & UTV World Championship Derby is well underway. Races begin early in the morning and conclude Sunday afternoon. Derbytrack owner Chuck Decker said there are about 200 entries, or about 150 participants. 

"It's been going really good, it's a first time event," Decker said. "You know we're very used to running a lot of snowmobile events, so this is very different. There's always some hiccups when you first start out. But things are going good. People are starting to come in. There's a lot of vendors here. I think it's going to be a great weekend."
 
 Check back all weekend for more updates as the Newswatch12 news team covers it. 

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - It takes a lot of work to get a business started.

Incubators, like those in Vilas County, gives entrepreneurs the tools they need to get their company off the ground.

Brad Zdroik has been in one of the Eagle River incubators for about a year. It's helped his Deep Freeze business grow.

+ Read More

Play Video

MINOCQUA - Getting a license to become a fishing guide in Wisconsin doesn't take much effort. Applicants fill out a one-page form and send a check to the DNR.

One local guide thinks the process should include steps to ensure safety on the water. Minocqua-area fishing guide Greg Bohn wants guides to be trained in safety procedures.

"You pay a $40 fee for the license, and you're a Wisconsin Licensed Fishing Guide. It doesn't mean that you're protecting yourself. It doesn't mean that you're protecting your passengers for hire," Bohn said.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - A Wausau teen could face a jury in a murder trial next month.

15-year-old Dylan Yang is accused of stabbing and killing 13-year-old Isaiah Powell during a gang-related fight in late February.

Yang was in court Friday for a motion hearing. It's part of the judicial process where both the prosecutor and the defense file arguments that certain evidence or witnesses can't be used during trial.

+ Read More

ACROSS WISCONSIN - Abbotsford 49, Greenwood/Granton 12

Alma/Pepin 53, Independence/Gilmanton 21

Almond-Bancroft 48, Rio 0

Antigo 35, Oconto 0

+ Read More

MADISON - Attorney General Brad Schimel is arguing that a federal court ruling blocking new Environmental Protection Agency water pollution regulations should apply nationwide.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here