Photo | Courtesy of Emily Gilbert

SHS senior Emily Gilbert has been making a positive impact for many years.

Making a special difference

April 19, 2016

Sometimes after a good deed, those who give their time deserve to be recognized. Over the years, Emily Gilbert, senior student at Solon High School (SHS), has made a difference in the Special Education department at SHS for the better.

“I’ve always connected easily with the special education students, even in elementary and middle school,” Gilbert said. “I never thought twice before befriending a student with special needs, and it’s very rewarding to know that I could be impacting someone in a positive way, just as they indefinitely impact my life.”

At SHS, there are many activities created in hopes of giving those with disabilities and special needs at our school a better opportunity to interact with others.

A popular activity created for the the students of SHS is the Breakfast Bungalow. The Breakfast Bungalow is located in one of the rooms (181) in the art wing at SHS. It’s an opportunity for the students who work there to learn and interact with others in school who they may not have normally had a chance to interact with.

“The food and services are provided to all students and teachers, and the Bungalow is beneficial to both the typical and atypical students at our school,” Gilbert said. “Students who work at the bungalow have jobs working as a cashier , food prep, and clean up… All of those things are very beneficial to helping their overall social skills.”

Lately, Gilbert has also managed to combine her love of helping others with her love for music and theater. One of several programs Gilbert is involved in is Broadway Buddies, a program through Stagecrafters at Pepper Pike Learning Center. Broadway Buddies is a theater program geared specifically towards those with special needs of all ages.

“I am paired with a mentally and physically challenged star, and together we go through the entire rehearsal process as well as the final production,” Gilbert said. “It’s an amazing program and is one of my favorite things to do.”

Gilbert is also currently co-president of the SHS club Council For Exceptional Children (CEC) along with senior Cailyn Hays. Both joined the club as underclassmen, and they both admit that later becoming leaders in the club is a huge accomplishment for them because the club has helped shape them into the young women they are today. The club’s main objective is to promote the idea of acceptance and inclusion of all students. The goal is to challenge members in the club and to create different programs that can help raise awareness for those with different disabilities in the community and throughout the school.

“We have monthly meetings, plan parties and field trips and participate in a mentor/mentee program to encourage relationships between SHS students, with and without special needs, while participating in fun outings and activities,” Gilbert said. “Some of our trips include apple picking, Whirley ball, bowling, mini golf, hands-on pottery, going to the movies and going to see school plays. In hopes of attempting to help develop social skills, especially for those with the disabilities.”

Both Hays and Gilbert have big hopes for the club and its future. They both can say that the club has grown by extreme leaps and bounds since they first joined. During school, they both even spend time in one of the special education classes instead of going to their commons periods.

“I hope this club continues to stay as great as it is and grows with the amount of people that are in it,” said co-president of CEC Cailyn Hays. “Joining this club was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and my favorite part of the club [is] all of the friendships that formed, along with all the uniqueness within the group of people.”

Gilbert has constantly impacted those around her, and continues to make a difference in these aspect of SHS

“Emily has a huge heart, especially when it comes to kids with special needs,” Hays said. “She has such a way with them and always knows how to make them smile. She definitely has had such a huge impact on everyone in that club from her giving, passionate and bubbly personality and kind heart.”

As Gilbert’s journey at SHS soon comes to an end, she keeps one thing in mind.

“I think that as individuals, if you hear someone using the “r-word,” say something about it,” Gilbert said. It doesn’t need to be in a nasty way, just a reminder that there are alternative words that can be used. As a whole, I hope that society becomes more open-minded and accepting, even as hard as that is in this day and age. It’s difficult to educate and spread mass awareness but if individuals take initiative, differences can be made.”

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