HHS students advocate for inclusion and respect with annual pledge


It’s all about respect.

On Wednesday March 7, the Huntsville High School (HHS) committee reAction4Inclusion, in partnership with Community Living Huntsville, held an “End the R Word” pledge event.

Both teens with and without a disability are part of ReAction4Inclusion. The committee involves student leaders, student ambassadors, and adult allies, and focuses on promoting social justice and changing the culture of HHS to be more respectful and inclusive for all.

Chantel Musselman, Annika Johnston, Bailey Williams, Nicola Deroode and Abby Witterick were the original committee who brought the annual event to HHS.

“After attending multiple conferences for Community Living I really felt that it was important to do my part to bring inclusion to the community,” said Abby Witterick. “Thankfully we had a really strong support system through Community Living Huntsville.”

The committee has grown to include students Alexandra Stelter, Maddie Witterick, Ravyn Hoode and Kelly Miller; student ambassadors Chantal Musselman, Nicola DeRoode, and Abigail Witterick; and adult allies Victoria Lamont and Gwen Jones, both family support workers, and Jennifer Cooper and David Armstrong, both teachers at Huntsville High School.

During the pledge event on March 7, a large banner with the message “Spread Respect” was hung in the main stairwell at Huntsville High School.

“We used this location as it is the busiest stairwell, and we wanted as many students as possible to see it and be involved,” said Victoria Lamont, a family support worker with Community Living. “On this banner, positive and kind words were written, as well as hand prints to symbolize inclusion.”

“Community Living Huntsville is committed to creating change in our community to include ALL people of ALL abilities. As a family support worker, I advocate for inclusion within the North Muskoka school community,” said Lamont.

In addition to the banner, a large scroll was made with the message, “We Huntsville Hoyas pledge to spread respect with eliminating the use of the r-word.”

The committee also set up a selfie booth and group photo station where students could take pictures with large cardboard cut-outs saying “No r-word.” Students were encouraged to post these photos with the hashtag #RandomActsOfInclusion on social media platforms, as this is a hashtag that ReAction4Inclusion committee members created and want to continue to raise awareness.

“Many students who stopped to pledge asked what this campaign was for and we got to answer these questions which allowed us to complete our main goal: spreading awareness and education within the school,” said Lamont. “The r-word is extremely hurtful and disempowering, especially for individuals and students who have various developmental disabilities. This event is important as it brings people and students together to create inclusive environments and to spread respect.”

How can you do your part with ending the R word?
Be mindful of the impact words can have on others.
Be kind to one another.
Ask questions and take the time to listen.
Allow yourself to be open to listening to different perspectives and life stories.
Get to know people in your community that are different.
Educate others about the Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign.

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