Students sign to pledge their support of ending use of the ‘R’ word. (Contributed photo)

White Rock students’ inclusion effort ‘surpassed expectations’

Peace Arch and St. John Paul II Academy pledged to ‘spread the word’

Staff and students at Peace Arch Elementary and St. John Paul II Academy were feeling a little blue recently – but not because they were sad.

The colour – in the form of T-shirts, bracelets and a pledge – was all about inclusion.

It was about “getting students to pledge to be inclusive and committed to stop using the ‘R’ word,” White Rock RCMP Const. Chantal Sears told Peace Arch News by email, of reasoning behind an event organized for March 4.

The effort was part of the Spread the Word>>Inclusion campaign – led by Special Olympics and Best Buddies – which is focused on “the creation of a new reality: inclusion for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

READ MORE: Surrey-area athletes prep for Special Olympics Canada Winter Games

It grew from Spread the Word to End the Word, a decade-long campaign that launched in 2009 with an aim to end the use of the ‘retarded.’

The local initiative included an opportunity for students at PAE and St. John Paul II Academy to hear from Special Olympian Ivy Snow. Snow, who works at the Morgan Creek Starbucks, spoke of her job as well as of her accomplishments as a volunteer and athlete, Sears said Tuesday.

The day “surpassed my expectations,” Sears said.

“The student leaders at both schools were amazing teaching their peers about kindness and inclusion,” she told PAN.

“It was really well received by everyone and definitely made a positive impact with a ripple effect. They were so excited to hear from Ivy and all (the) abilities she had – from working at a local Starbucks, volunteering and her athletic achievements through SOBC for swimming and bowling.”

Students also signed two ‘Spread the Word’ posters, pledging to be a friend, give everyone a voice, respect abilities, celebrate differences and more.

In a tweet that same day, Sears said it’s not too late for others to make similar pledges.

“Young people, YOUR voices matter!” she said, thanking the students who participated for helping make White Rock a more inclusive city.

Last year, Sears challenged PAE students to identify a group in White Rock that was somehow excluded from the community and come up with a way to effect change for people in that group. The preteens focused on seniors, Special Olympics BC, pediatrics at Peace Arch Hospital and low-income families.

READ MORE: White Rock students rise to inclusion challenge

Sears felt then that the students had stepped up to the challenge, and expressed a similar sentiment with regard to this year’s effort.

“I’m really proud of everyone who led, participated and pledged!” she said.

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Students sign a poster pledging to spread inclusion by doing such things as being a friend, celebrating differences and respecting abilities. (Contributed photo)

St. John Paul Academy II principal Michel DesLauriers and students participate in an inclusion event at the White Rock school with Ivy, Special Olympian. (Contributed photo)

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