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

RHINELANDER - Building a robot may seem like a pretty lofty summer camp goal, but teens in the Northwoods love the technological challenge.

It's all part of a summer camp that's heavy on science and social interaction.

13-year-old Sean Timm says the eight day robotics camp at Nicolet College mixed the best of both worlds.

"I like technology a lot more than I do outside stuff," Timm said. "It's kind of nice to have technology like drones to bring me outside. It's really fun."

Camp Instructor, Mike Wojtusik has many years of experience as a technology education teacher and robotics advisor. He wants kids to see the importance in learning these skills.

"The kids are getting experience from a mechanical engineering side, electrical engineering side, design, prototyping," said Wojtusik. "We try and cover as much as we can about the whole entire system."

Learning about robotics isn't the only thing these students do. Some of them are also exercising skills they'll need in the future.

"I think it's a great experience for them to understand what really goes on in the real world as far as a career," Wojtusik said.

Certain careers that often require teamwork.

"Challenging part is working with a team because you don't always agree on the same thing," said 12-year-old Louis Malais. "When you build a robot you do the most teamwork than I think in any other job."

As their final project, students design and build their own version of a remote control robot.

They are required to work in teams to sketch a vision, make prototypes and design a working model with aluminum.

"It's not just you know operating a piece of machinery, it's learning how that machinery is put together," Wojtusik said.

Students are piecing together machines and building future careers at the same time.

"If I were to get an opportunity to do something like this in the future, I would definitely take it," Timm said.
 
Throughout the course of the camp, students were exposed to prototyping, brainstorming, modeling, safety and sketching.

The last day of the robotics camp is scheduled to be Thursday, July 28.

+ Read More

PHILADELPHIA - Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic presidential nomination after rival Bernie Sanders asked delegates at the party's national convention to nominate her by acclamation.

It was a dramatic end to the roll call of states.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - When people found Josephine the beagle in Forest County earlier this year, she barely clung to life. Now, a young Langlade County girl will work hard to help save Josie.

+ Read More

Play Video

WISCONSIN - Mud, debris, and damaged property still cover parts of Northern Iron County after a storm ripped through there more than two weeks ago.

The lack of money to repair certain areas is largely keeping the rebuilding process from getting started.

That's why the Federal Emergency Management Agency came to Iron County Tuesday.

It surveyed the damage because of its severity and the extreme costs to fix.

"Really if it's beyond the scope of local jurisdiction, and even the states that respond," said FEMA External Affairs Officer Troy Christensen.

Wisconsin Emergency Management currently believes the damage caused by the mid-July storm is around $38 million across 10 counties and Bad River Reservation. Around $15 million of that happened in Iron County.

FEMA relies on local government like the ones in Iron County to help it assess damage.

"They have sights selected so they will be showing us a lot of these sights." Said Christensen.
 
Those sights included multiple towns, Saxon Harbor, and crumbled highways.

This week Iron County gave its damage estimates to FEMA.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Over the last few years, Lac du Flambeau's Frank Schuman, a mixed martial arts athlete, rose to become one of the top King of the Cage fighters in the nation.

Nicknamed "Nightmare," he drew large crowds to see him fight in Lac du Flambeau. Newswatch 12 even did a pair of feature stories on him in 2015 and 2016.

But on Tuesday, Schuman went before a judge in Vilas County Court, charged with eleven counts related to battery and domestic abuse.

+ Read More

MADISON - A 20-year-old man accused of killing a woman in a random drive-by shooting has been found competent to stand trial in Milwaukee County.

+ Read More

MERRILL - A suspect died after being shot by police near Merrill.

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said it was dealing with a "critical incident" at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Later, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office told Newswatch 12 that it helped the Antigo Police Department with a high-speed pursuit.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 




Click Here