Batavia student recognized for project

February 1st, 2009    Author: Marsha Mundy    Filed Under: News

Sometimes the things that irritate us can be turned into something positive. That is what happened with Ashley Young, an eighth grade student at Batavia Middle School.

Young was recently recognized by the Batavia Local School Board for a video project about name calling. She presented the project to the board during its December meeting.

Young has worked in a camp with people who have mental disabilities since she was four and has a passion for them.

"I heard the word retarded used in the halls (at school) so many times and it wasn't used in the correct way," said Young. "Last year I decided that I wanted to do something about it so I e-mailed the superintendent Barbara Bradley and my principal Karyn Strong asking them if I could hold an assembly to talk to the students about it. We have a chance to make a difference every day."

She was told that it would take a lot of effort to hold an assembly and that they couldn't do anything about it at that time.

"This year when I heard students using the word again, I decided that I had to do something about it and I talked it over with my mom," said Young.

"My mom told me to make a DVD explaining that people with disabilities can be happy and strong and do different things," said Young. "She said I needed to let people know that people with disabilities can do anything they can do and that people with retardation are diagnosed with a disability."

It took Young several days of work and nine hours on the computer to make the DVD with photos and music showing the different things that people with disabilities are capable of doing. She had it completed right after winter break.

"So far I have shown it to a couple classes and the school board," said Young. "This week is National No-Name Calling Week and the principal at the elementary school has asked me to show it to the fourth grade classes. I have a brother in the fourth grade and he has some disabilities, so I'm pretty excited to be able to do this."

She stated that after viewing the video, one of the students asked her if she expected everyone to stop the name calling.

"I told him that it was unrealistic to expect everyone to stop, but that some people would take the message to heart," said Young. "I think he was surprised by my answer."

Young says that the video has definitely had an impact.

"I have seen a difference, some people slip and say the word, but then they say they are sorry," said Young. "I know that I'm making an impact and have received a lot of good feedback. I have also been getting some sarcasm from classmates, but I can deal with it."

Because of her mother's involvement with Camp Allyn, a Stepping Stones Center facility offering programs for children and adults with disabilities located in Batavia, Young has been involved with volunteering at the camp, often helping with the camp residents in the evenings and on the weekends.

Batavia Middle School Principal Karyn Strong brought Young's project to the board's attention.

"Every month we do a celebration and we sat down to brainstorm about what we should do for December," said Strong. "We selected Ashley's project to celebrate and we also presented it to the board of education."

Young received a certificate from the school board about making a difference.

"The certificate they gave me said that a young man was walking on the beach and an older man came up and saw that the beach was covered with starfish and the young man picked up a starfish and was throwing it back in the water. The older man told him that what he was doing wasn't making any difference," said Young. "The young man told the older man that it made a difference to that star fish."

"When the school board watched my video and then all of them stood and applauded me, it felt good," said Young. "This is something that I am passionate about and it feels good to be recognized for something positive."

Young doesn't have any new projects in the works yet, but she said she is willing to present her video to any community groups who may be interested.

"I'm not afraid to speak in front of people and if some group wanted me to speak to them, I would jump at the chance," said Young. "I didn't do this because someone said I had to do it. I just want people to stop saying the word retarded and be more sensitive to disabled people."
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