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

RHINELANDER - You can find a lot of trees losing their leaves this time of year.  But a strip of trees near downtown Rhinelander is losing more than its leaves--those trees are losing their lives.

The ash trees sit between Trig's and the post office in Rhinelander.  City Parks Director Gunder Paulsen noticed that many are infected with the emerald ash borer and will need to come down.

+ Read More

PRICE COUNTY - Some of us owe a lot to our health clinics for keeping us healthy enough to celebrate our birthday every year.

But one local health operation celebrates a big birthday of its own this year.

Marshfield Clinic turns 100 this December, but  the clinics in Price County celebrated the milestone on Friday.

+ Read More

LAC DU FLAMBEAU - When people found a woman's body in Lac du Flambeau, police first thought she committed suicide -- something Newswatch 12 does not cover.

But Friday, the Vilas County Sheriff's Office confirmed it is investigating the 45-year-old woman's death as suspicious.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Almost 12,000 people took a trip into history this year. But you only have one more day to check out the Pioneer Park Historical Complex in Rhinelander. The museum closes for the season Saturday.

+ Read More

MADISON - Chronic wasting disease has turned up in a deer in another northern Wisconsin county.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection announced that a deer on an Oconto County hunting preserve tested positive for the disease.

+ Read More

Play Video

ONEIDA COUNTY - If you want to escape car exhaust, streetlights, and sirens, people in Oneida County know you don't need to pack for an extended trip.

Tucked away in western Oneida County, the Willow Flowage offers outdoor enthusiasts a year-round playground.

With 27,000 acres of undeveloped land and 6,000 acres of pristine water, the Willow Flowage reminds a lot of people of Canada...almost.

+ Read More
Rhinelander Homecoming parade Submitted: 09/30/2016

RHINELANDER - Construction did not stop Hodag pride Friday night.

Green and white spilled into downtown for Rhinelander's homecoming celebration.

The dance team showed off its moves and the football team rolled down Brown Street.

The homecoming parade got students, parents, and even grandparents to come out in support.

"I am here to see my grandson, he is on the court, "said Elsa Burke.

Hodag jerseys and green facepaint lined the street as the RHS band and flag twirlers marched.

There definitely was a lot to look at, but football seemed to be the only thing on some people's minds.

"To see the Hodags come home with a W. That would be good," said RHS student Jacob Mahner.

The varsity football game kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight against the Medford Raiders.



+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here