I have been a member of Avondale’s Leadership Class for two years. A significant experience in my life happened during Middle School Training for 8th graders last school year. Leadership Class students spend a whole day teaching leadership skills through team-building exercises. Before we started, I noticed a mother in the hallway talking with a teacher. Her daughter was wearing the t-shirt with my team’s color. Her daughter Tori is a special needs student. I learned that Tori cannot tolerate loud noises or large groups of people. This day was going to have both. Her mother was concerned that Tori would be overwhelmed and want to go home.
When the program began I was asked to stay with Tori for the day. I kept her close to me as I introduced myself and helped organize my team. The first activity was creating team chants and Tori started to plug her ears. I took her to the hallway to get her away from the noise. I asked her simple questions, we talked, and she calmed down. She was hesitant to go back into the gym, but she did staying close to me. When the chants started, she asked to go back to the hallway. I started to get nervous because I didn’t want her to go home.
After the team chants were done, Tori and I went back into the gym for the first game. Tori was quiet, but she participated. At lunch, I sat with Tori and included other girls in our conversation. Soon these girls were asking Tori questions. These were girls Tori would probably never sit with at regular lunch. I left her briefly and saw from a distance that she was still in the gym having fun with her teammates. The day wrapped up with team competitions which were pretty loud. Tori was still in the gym participating with her teammates. She never asked to leave the gym after the second time which was a huge accomplishment for her. When her mom picked her up Tori was happy and telling her mom about the whole day.
I knew at that moment that what I had done had made a big difference. I was surprised that a girl who seemed to have such a challenge with noise and people could have such a breakthrough in a short period of time. Now I imagine how other amazing breakthroughs can happen from accepting and including others the way I did Tori that day.