An opportunity to serve

Guest Blog By Bryn McSwain

Special Education Teacher, Eugene Ashley HS, Wilmington, NC

Each year our school hosts a Relay for Life event that raises awareness and money for cancer research. It’s an all night walk-a-thon, featuring people who have earned sponsorship money for every lap they walk. This event has successfully raised awareness and money, but it has benefits for my students that others rarely see.

Relay for Life has become quite an event for our students. Clubs and teams engage in a friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds. The Exceptional Children’s Department has made it an opportunity for student growth through service to others. Each year, without fail, the young men in my Intensive Behavioral Support (IBS) class have put forth a beautiful display of volunteering.

I sometimes struggle to get my IBS students to realize the world is full of opportunities that are not apparent. They just have to imagine and go for them. Volunteering for Relay for Life is a hands-on example.

The limited mobility EC students make colorful signage promoting the event. These get posted throughout the school and community. They also make some of the “illuminata,” that light the track after the sun goes down. Even though my IBS kids struggle in the traditional school setting, they flourish when their efforts are focused on something more tangible than English or Algebra. Over the years I have watched my students do whatever needs to be done.

Our department uses the relay as a way to spark changes in our students’ behavior and attitudes. Service to others gives them an opportunity to grow in a positive direction. Classroom lessons often touch on generosity and humility, but it is volunteering for Relay for Life event, that enables my “at risk” students get to serve the larger circle of humanity.


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