What the special needs students taught me

What the special needs students taught me

Sydney Ginkens, Photographer

Senior Sydney Ginkens was the captain of JHS Best Buddies and assistant director for the play “Moongirl”.

I started this year off knowing that I would make a difference at Johnston, but I didn’t know what specifically I would do. I’m just an average person, not very social, I do my school work, and go home; nothing special in my opinion. After many years of being the average person I decided I would make a difference my senior year. I didn’t know specifically I would make a difference, but I was open to anything that came my way.

I took on the role as a captain for Best Buddies, and I can confidently say that it was the best decision that I have made in high school. This opened up endless opportunities for me and my future. Throughout this year I gained access to possible internships in the future, I met amazing people who encouraged me to use my strengths and improve my weaknesses. This year has taught me that my biggest strength is also my weakness. I am very independent, if I could have done everything myself I would have been content. I think that being independent is a good quality to have but it also leads me to over commit. I often take on more than I can possibly do myself and have a hard time delegating tasks as I would love to do everything on my own. This year was a reality check and I learned that I need to be okay with passing tasks onto other people. Throughout this year, I can say that I made a difference at Johnston through Best Buddies.

Throughout the school year I still wasn’t sure on how I was going to impact Johnston, but I patiently waited for the opportunity to come up. I heard about the May Day Play and inquired more about it. Little did I know it was what would begin to change my life and those in the community as well. This play was called “Moongirl”, the play depicts how students with special needs may feel in society and our message was portrayed that everyone is different and unique, and that is okay. This play was put on by the Experienced Based Career Education (EBCE) class May 1. The students in this class were in charge of budgeting for supplies, set building, and problem-solving. Our goal for the play was for the community to see our message of acceptance.

I took on the role of directing the play with teachers Heath Pattschull and Anne Zernhelt.  Endless hours went into the play. Everything from late nights making flyers, to meetings, skipping classes to paint the set, and large amounts of caffeine to keep me going. The play was already starting to impact my life as I was improving organizational skills, communication skill and I realized that my ability to over commit needed to stop and I had to start delegating tasks to others. As the play started to sneak up, the list of things to do grew larger but the excitement from the students was even greater. The big day came and the kids were very excited. While I should have been excited, I was stressed and overwhelmed with the turnout of the play and the minor details that now seem insignificant. One thing that changed my perspective was when special ed associate Brandon Pruitt said, “The people who need to see the play will be here,” That was something I needed to hear and started focusing on the actual play rather then the turnout. I started reading my Bible over lunch and came across the verse Luke:29-32. To sum the verse up it talks about when you put your faith in God, everything will fall into place. After a short attitude check and some motivation I was started to get very excited about the play, keeping everything I had just learned in mind and knew that the people who needed to see the play would be here, impacting the community and JHS.

Eventually 6:30 p.m. rolled around and people started filling up the auditorium, the kids were excited, everyone was ready to go.  Everything was going great and then we had technical difficulties in the wave scene. Junior Dawson Simbers was planning on using his tablet to type the script and then the machine would read his parts to the audience. It was his scene and we were unable to work his tablet. I kept Simbers entertained with a dance party to the jazz music while Pattschull tried to figure out the tablet. We couldn’t keep the audience waiting forever, so we had to set up the bakery scene and do that first. While the bakery scene was running we had to come up with an alternative plan for the wave scene. Junior Hayley Signs asked senior Cody Faught if he would want to act and he wanted to. When the curtains opened, Faught read the script for the first time and did great. This is a prime example of what we have been teaching the kids to do throughout this process, problem solving.

When making props the students in EBCE got together and created a budget for the play, went shopping for supplies, and then decided how to make the props. The students had to work together to problem solve on things that came up, like how to fix broken props or how to reduce spending on supplies. By us changing the order of the scenes during the play, this showed the students that you will have to problem solve on the spot in real life. The turnout of “Moongirl” was greater than we ever could have imagined; we raised over $1,800 with ticket sales and donations combined. Without a doubt, our message reached the audience, and team “Moongirl” impacted lives in our community.

The kids got to do something that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They got to show the community who they are, they got to show  their heart for others and the community.  I am not taking credit for the play, I was not even on stage. EBCE students and peers made this play possible, they portrayed the message that everyone has a heart and wants to be part of the community. I believe we accomplished that; many school board members, school officials, teachers, and community business owners attended “Moongirl.”

I am blessed and honored to have been given the opportunity as a captain for Best Buddies. That was the start of my life being forever changed, preparing me for my future of working with children and adults that have special needs. The students have taught me more in the past three years then I could have ever taught them. Their heart for others is so unique, they see everyone for who they really are.  They have taught me to not take life so seriously; it’s okay to take a break and have fun every once and awhile. I now realize the importance of taking the time to get to know people and always try in everything I do. The kids I have worked with are world changers and will go on to impact more people. This isn’t something you come across very often in a high school. They have forever changed my life and I promise they will change yours if you give them a chance.