Welcome to the Community Inclusion Forum.  Our goal is to provide you a place to encourage and explore new ways to promote inclusion, and to share experiences and ideas with each other so that we can all learn and grow.  We hope you'll check in often, and contribute regularly.  Inclusion starts with each of us as individuals.  Together we begin to form communities.  We hope you join this one!

August 2015 Community Inclusion Newsletter

August 13th, 2015

I met Colleen when she and her Learning Partner, Debbie, participated in a six-month Make a Difference workshop that I facilitated in the first half of 2015. 


8.2015 ci newsletter.pdf

June 2015 Community Inclusion Newsletter

June 24th, 2015

Eric was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in May, 1977.

The doctor who delivered him advised his parents to place him in an institution. Eric's mom and dad disregarded the doctor's advice, took their beautiful new son home and thankfully ended up with a loving and supportive pediatrician

6.2015 ci newsletter.pdf

Spencer's Story: How Community Fosters Inclusion

February 2nd, 2015
Coach Miles Mason presents the first T-Bird Strong Award to Spencer. This award was inspired by, and named for, Spencer!

T-Bird Strong. An award conceived, given and named for the recipient, Spencer, now seventeen and a senior at Shorewood High School, it is rooted in the value of inclusion. Spencer's mom, Cindy, told me that it is clear to her that aside from her son's outgoing and positive personality, the Shoreline community and its inclusionary dynamics have been a major source of support for her family. 

From birth to the age of three Spencer and his family were involved with Wonderland Developmental Center, a non profit dedicated to serving children with developmental delays and disabilities. The center's Play and Learn groups include children of all abilities. 

Spencer later attended Parkwood Elementary, a blended school that encourages inclusion. Spencer attended Einstein Middle School and in seventh grade joined the Cross Country team. Many Cross Country athletic programs have a "no cut" policy which enables all students to participate regardless of ability. Through this policy of inclusion all athletes benefit as illustrated strongly by Spencer's story of inspiration and leadership.

Spencer may not finish first on the track but among his coaches, team captains, teammates and anyone lucky enough to witness his exuberance as he crosses the finish line, he is number one. Everyone I interviewed spoke of Spencer not as just an inspiration to the team, but also an influence in their lives off the field. He has taught them to be more positive, try their best and that you don't need to be first if you give it your all. Spencer gives his all on and off the track as he generously shares his zestful attitude among his teammates, coaches and all who encounter him. One team captain said, "Spencer won't allow us to be down. He keeps us positive no matter what. The only thing that matters to Spencer is that we try our best."

Andrew, one of his team's captains, speaks eloquently about his long relationship with Spencer. They both began the sport in seventh grade when they attended Einstein Middle School together. "Spencer is a spark plug. He brings a spirit that is always positive and his positivity is contagious. For me he will always bring back the best memories of Shorewood." Another team captain who was new to Cross Country in his junior year said that Spencer motivated him to push through the intimidation he felt as a new teammate. "Spencer's carefree demeanor pushes through every obstacle. He always tries his best but has fun at the same time. He makes me want to do the same. He pushes me to do better and shine even brighter."

Spencer's coaches, Miles Mason, Paul Villanueva, and Leslie Silver, who together conceived this special award in Spencer's name all spoke of the magnitude of his influences on not only their teams but all the other teams they encounter at meets. In fact this new coach's award inspired and named for Spencer was also awarded to three other teammates this year. One of the award recipients is on the girls cross country team. She told me that due to a chronic back injury, she was often unable to participate. However, this did not stop her from consistently showing up and cheering her teammates on. She told me that for her Spencer was an inspiration. She took a breath and said, "He is a legend!" I looked into her face as she said this and I could see this was no exaggeration.

This is not the first award for Spencer. One of his other awards, the Homecoming Spirit Award, came in 2013. The Homecoming Spirit award is voted on by the ASB Officers in collaboration with the Junior Senators which shows that Spencer's inspirational skills go beyond his involvement in Cross Country.

Spencer has had a long term relationship with many of the medically fragile students at Shorewood High School and as a result of this bonding and interaction over the years, he decided to spend one of his electives helping out these students in a scheduled setting. This is Spencer?s legacy among his community at Shorewood High School and his influence will be an uplifting force for many lives as high school recedes into memory.

The last person I interviewed was Spencer himself, and I have to say that after hearing of his profound influence from his teachers, coaches, classmates, and helpers I felt like I was meeting a rock star! When I asked Spencer how participating on the Cross Country team had impacted him and also what his reaction was to receiving the award with the further legacy of his name attached to it, he replied, "It makes me happy. It impacts my whole life. I will keep running.? When I told him that Coach Miles had mentioned that it would be great if Spencer would come back next year to give out the T-Bird Strong award, he grinned and said he would love to.

Spencer?s influence is felt throughout his Shoreline community. He is active in his church's youth group, participating in fundraisers and traveled with the group for the last two summers down to Tillamook, OR to participate in Habitat for Humanity projects. Spencer's positive approach to their projects has benefited their efforts and inspired the others in his youth group.

Spencer also volunteers at the Dale Turner YMCA. For over a year now he has spent his Sunday afternoons there. He has a mentor that supervises him at jobs such as cleaning the equipment and laundry duty. Spencer also enjoys working out at the Y and has made many friends there. If his father goes to work out without Spencer everyone asks him "Where is Spencer today?"

When we spoke of his future moving on to Shoreline Community College in the fall, he told me that he is on the "team of life." After meeting Spencer, I know I want to be on that team too. In just one afternoon he had broadened my horizons. The Shoreline community encourages inclusion and fosters the growth of inspiration that manifests itself throughout the community and beyond. This is so richly illustrated by Spencer and all of the lives he will continue to influence. He will be remembered and missed at Shorewood High, but he has a bright future ahead of him and a supportive community who will benefit from his spark. Spencer models the kind of approach to life that can benefit all of us in our communities, both large and small. Beyond our neighborhoods, schools and churches, there is a field where we can all run together. 

Community Inclusion Newsletter January 2015

February 2nd, 2015

T-Bird Strong. An award conceived, given and named for the recipient, Spencer, now seventeen and a senior at Shorewood High School, it is rooted in the value of inclusion. Spencer's mom, Cindy, told me that it is clear to her that aside from her son's outgoing and positive personality, the Shoreline community and its inclusionary dynamics have been a major source of support for her family.



Have you checked out the "Hot Tips for Community Inclusion" section lately?

November 3rd, 2014

We update the "Hot Tips" section regularly, but I'm not sure if you all are notified when that happens. So, if you haven't checked out that section of the blog lately, you really should!  And feel free to add your own great ideas in the comments sections.  We love hearing from you!