Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

High School Program Unites Traditional, Special Education StudentsSubmitted: 04/01/2013
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

High School Program Unites Traditional, Special Education Students
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

MERRILL - Merrill went without a homeless shelter for the last two winters. 

Now, construction is finally about to begin on a new one. 

The building was donated to the Merrill Community Homeless Center board in October.

Board Secretary Dee Olsen says Merrill has had 30 adults and five families suffering from homelessness in the last five months.

+ Read More

WAUSAU - Police spent hours trying to get a man with a gun out of a Wausau home Friday morning. 

According to a press release, Wausau Police went to a home on the 100 block of Maple Street looking for Bennie Green, 35. Green was a suspect in a gun fire investigation from Wednesday night. Police think Green fired a gun near North Third Ave and Norton Street that night. No one was hurt in that situation.

+ Read More

Play Video

MINOCQUA - Every four years, winter sports gain popularity during the Olympics. For two weeks, athletes show the world what they can do. The skaters from the Lakeland Figure Skating Club aren't in the Olympics, but they've spent months perfecting their routines for a showcase this weekend. 

Ice skating has been a lifelong passion for Raven Carufel. 

"I originally saw the Disney movie Ice Princess and my parents got me a pair of skates for Christmas and it's been history since then," said 16-year-old Carufel. 

Now, she skates at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena to improving her skills and move up levels. Advancing is a big part of the sport. But skating also serves as a stress reliever. 

"I feel so confident when I'm on the ice it's kind of a release for everything in life," said Carufel. 

Carufel and the other skaters are preparing for the Lakeland Figure Skating Club's Ice Show this weekend.
Skaters of all ages and skills levels show off their routines.

"This is the only show I do out of the year, otherwise its mostly training for competing," said 17-year-old Lainie Kuckkahn. 

Lakeland Ice Arena is home for Kuckkahn. She also travels all over the state and country to compete.
"Right now my goal is to pass all my free skates and also continue competing and hopefully get a few higher scores," said Kuckkahn. 

These skaters spend weeks, months, and even years practicing. But every four years, their sport comes into the spotlight in the Olympics. They get to watch some of their favorite skaters perform. 

"My favorite skater is Evgenia from Russia," said Carufel. 

"I've always really liked Mirai Nagasu, so I was really happy when she landed her triple axel this year in competition."

Watching their favorite athletes on TV gives young skaters some extra motivation to keep getting better.
"Just seeing that strength they have kind of inspires me to strengthen my own skating," said Carufel. 

"It makes me feel good because sometimes I want to be in the Olympics. I kind of imagine me and my group being in the Olympics having just fun," said eight-year-old Addison Nelson. 

The shows will be held on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena in Minocqua. 

+ Read More

Play Video

RHIENLANDER - Police think a Rhinelander woman tried to hire a hitman to kill her husband. During Megan Danielczak's preliminary hearing on Friday, a detective explained in more detail what led up to Danielczak's arrest.

Rhinelander Police Detective Sergeant Kyle Parish said Danielczak told police she "went through with it" because she was scared of the hitman.

+ Read More

Play Video

TOMAHAWK - The near freezing temperatures will help snowmobile racers compete at the 2nd Annual Winter Hatchet Nationals Ice Oval Snowmobile Race at the Tomahawk Speedway.

Last year during the race, temperatures reached far above freezing causing track co-owner Andrew Bartelt to plan ahead.

"I actually covered this entire speedway with tents and stuff like that to block the UV rays. This year we were preemptive and we put a UV blocker in the water which came along with blue coloring so it looks pretty," said Bartelt.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Blink and you might miss him.  Patrik Sandell tends to understate things, but flying around on a frozen lake, sometimes at 100 miles per hour, is simply "normal" for him.

"I've been flying out here," Sandell said.  "For me, this is how I grew up."

Sandell learned to drive race cars under similar conditions as a youngster in Sweden.  The 35-year-old joined Subaru Rally Team USA and wanted to bring his ice driving experience to the states.  The racing style means drifting a car at high speeds through a curvy ice track.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - A new restaurant opened in Rhinelander, on Friday.

It is been a long road for sisters Stephanie Kaether and Chris Culley to open the Historic Davenport House.

Kaether and Culley were born and raised in Rhinelander.

"We've always been close and there's no any sibling rivalry," said Kaether.

After traveling all over the world, the two sisters finally decided to follow their dream and open a restaurant in their hometown. 

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here