Loading

10°F

11°F

9°F

11°F

11°F

16°F

7°F

16°F

16°F

11°F
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
911 service restored after roughly 7-hour outageSubmitted: 12/18/2014

MADISON - Emergency 911 service has been restored to multiple southern Wisconsin counties after an outage that lasted roughly seven hours.

That service was restored at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Frontier spokeswoman Karen Miller says the outage happened after an underground cable was inadvertently severed by a third party shortly after 9 a.m. The outage affected 911 phone service and high-speed internet access.

The issue impacted Juneau, Columbia, Adams and Marquette counties in south-central Wisconsin.

+ Read More
2 Salvation Army red kettles stolen in HaywardSubmitted: 12/18/2014

HAYWARD - Two Salvation Army red kettles have been stolen in Hayward in recent weeks.

The Salvation Army says one of the kettles contained an estimated $400.

The most recent theft happened Wednesday at Walgreen's. Sawyer County Salvation Army director Debbie Huebner says surveillance video shows someone grabbed the kettle's stand and put the whole structure into the back of a vehicle.

Huebner says that kettle had been emptied right before the theft. But a few weeks ago, a thief cut a cable to steal a kettle from Walmart. Huebner estimated it contained $300 to $400.

+ Read More
Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth during June 2013-14 stretchSubmitted: 12/18/2014

MADISON - Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth for the 12-month period ending in June.

The latest figures were reported Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They show that Wisconsin grew private-sector jobs between July 2013 and the end of June this year by 1.45 percent. That lags the national average of growth at 2.3 percent.

Wisconsin ranks 32nd nationally and behind Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development also reported Thursday that unemployment dropped from 5.4 percent to 5.2 percent between October and November. The national unemployment rate for November is 5.8 percent.

The monthly also shows Wisconsin added 16,500 private sector jobs in November.

+ Read More
Expert: Walker still has time to declare Pres. run after Jeb Bush comments, Legislature to take lead on some issuesSubmitted: 12/18/2014

RHINELANDER - Gov. Scott Walker won't say when he'll decide if he'll run for president in the upcoming 2016 election, but some political observers say former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's announcement to "actively explore" a presidential run adds some urgency to declare for possible contenders.

Gov. Walker said this week that Bush's comments, "don't affect me one way or another."

However, UW-Madison Professor of Political Science Kenneth Mayer says Walker and other possible candidates may have time into January or February to make a decision.

+ Read More
Tree of Hope helps families in MerrillSubmitted: 12/18/2014

Play Video

MERRILL - Needy families in Merrill will have a better Christmas this year.

The Merrill Fire Department is sponsoring the Tree of Hope.

+ Read More
Stranger donates $1,200 gold coin to Langlade County Salvation ArmySubmitted: 12/18/2014

Play Video

ANTIGO - Salvation Army workers in Langlade County don't know who to thank.

A stranger dropped a $1,200 gold coin into one of the red kettles in Antigo.

"The coin is in very good condition. Somebody knew what they were doing when they dropped it in the bucket," says Langlade County Salvation Army Volunteer Coordinator William Kelly.

Someone donated a 1922 Philadelphia mint Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin at Fleet Farm in Antigo.

Volunteers don't know who made the donation.

+ Read More
Peace Candle Lighting: a new holiday tradition Submitted: 12/18/2014

WOODRUFF - Some members of a Northwoods church hope to offer people the chance to start a new holiday tradition this year.

Members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff think everyone has something to gain by giving more attention to peace.

Church members brought a peace candle to the Northwoods.

They hope the candle lighting will help the community reflect on peace this holiday season.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here