Effort will promote the idea that people of all abilities and backgrounds should fully participate in school and community.
BETHESDA, MD–Twenty young people from across the country will come together here next month to participate in a national summit. Their goal: develop an advocacy campaign that builds awareness and support for the full social and educational inclusion of people with disabilities. The youth leaders, diverse in their backgrounds, experiences and abilities, are united in their vision of a world where people of all abilities have the same opportunities.
The National Youth Inclusion Summit is organized by the Including Samuel Project, a program of University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, along with Imagination Stage, the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, and the National Inclusion Project. Partners in the effort include the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Kids Included Together, Girl Scouts of the USA, Victor Pineda Foundation and VSA arts.
Every participating teen has already played a role in advocating for inclusion in their school or community. Most recently, they have each facilitated discussion among their peers by coordinating a screening of Including Samuel, a documentary broadcast nationwide on PBS stations in the fall of 2009 that looks at five families’ stories of inclusion. “By hosting screenings, such as the one for the film Including Samuel, which is a powerful documentary, we bring awareness to this issue,” states Liane, a sophomore at Yale and a Summit participant.
At the Summit, participants will share their personal experiences, hear from advocacy experts and work together to build a coordinated viral campaign on inclusion that engages youth nationally.
Sarah, an 11th grader from Iowa and a Summit participant, says about the Summit, “I believe that it is critical for teens to stand up and speak out about the importance of social inclusion for students with disabilities. I feel that awareness and education are powerful tools and can really change the way we think about inclusion.”
“Including Samuel is resonating with this young audience and I hope it can be a catalyst for their generation,” added filmmaker Dan Habib, creator of Including Samuel. “Without them, we cannot achieve the film’s vision of inclusion in our schools and communities.”
Tia, a Girl Scout in 7th grade from North Carolina, adds, “Disabilities should make our bonds with society and people in our community stronger, not weaker.” Tia and the other nineteen participants will work toward this goal at the Summit.
The Summit will take place January 8-10, 2010, at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland.