Loading

59°F

52°F

59°F

60°F

51°F

59°F

53°F

59°F

55°F

53°F

59°F

53°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

RHINELANDER - Pawz n' Clawz held their Second Pawzitive Outdoor Games on Saturday.

The event brings dogs and people together for some outdoor fun while helping local non-profits. The Pawzitive Outdoor Games tests a dogs skill in agility, dock diving, and speed.

TLC Training owner Carol Lofquist set up a standard course to test dog skills.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - People run for many different reasons.

On Saturday the community came together to run to remember Kory Dahlvig.

Dahlvig was a Vilas County sheriff's deputy who lost his life in the line of duty. Nicolet College started the Run to Remember three years ago in his honor.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - The AMSOIL Eagle River Derbytrack's first-ever ATV & UTV World Championship Derby is in full gear.

Racers say they are impressed with the first-ever event.

"There's been really no ATV races in Wisconsin and for them to have us here and do this event, it's going to be pretty cool," said professional ATV driver Cody Janssen. "I'm pretty excited to be a part of it."

The warm weather is a welcome change to racers like Jay Mittelstaedt, who are used to racing at the annual snowmobile derby in the winter.

"It's really weird because if you've been coming here for however long and it's snow and ice and cold...now the grass is green and there's piles of dirt," Mittelstaedt said. "It's a little different but it's pretty cool."

Racers of all ages and skill dashed around the track.

For many racers and fans, the derby is a family affair.

"My husband took it up when he was a kid, he's been racing for almost 20 years, and we just finally got into it these last few years and thought it would be something for the kids to get into," said parent and racer 
Michele Grant. "And I started three years ago and it's a lot of fun."

Racers want spectators to see a good show.

"That's why I hope that hill is full today and I hope people come out and appreciate how cool this is," Janssen said.

The event continues until the championships on Sunday afternoon. 

+ Read More

TOMAHAWK - A Tomahawk man turns his love for logging into woodworking hobby and business.

Wesley Bushor shows and sells woodwork out of his home.

"I don't consider myself an artist. I'm just, I'm a logger who likes to glue sticks together," said Bushor.

Wesley Bushor started working on his wood pieces about 20 years ago.

"Being a logger I come across things all the time that I like in the woods, and I decided I'd start building some basic rustic furniture, and I built a bed. A few weeks later it fell apart, but I was hooked from then on," said Bushor.
 
Bushor's house is his gallery, and you can find his work in every room. The result: a whimsical home that showcases his love for his hobby and trade. He's proud of the work he's done.

+ Read More

WABENO - A Goodman, Wis., man died from an ATV crash in Wabeno late Saturday morning, according to a Forest County Sheriff's Department press release. 

Forest County Sheriff's officers responded to a report of an ATV crash in Wabeno late Saturday morning. Deputies got to the scene and found just one ATV was involved in the crash.

As a result of the crash, a 23-year-old Goodman, WI, man was pronounced dead at the scene by the Forest County Medical Examiner. There were no other people involved. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is investigating the crash. 

Deputies will not release the name until the family is notified. 

We will provide more updates as they become available. 

+ Read More

WOOD COUNTY - The Wood County 911 system is fixed, according to the Dispatch Center page on the Wood County website. The website posted this update at 7:11pm. 

+ 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
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here