With Mission in Mind⁠—October 19, 2020

Pushing Beyond our Borders

Using our city as a classroom beginning in Preschool, and by Grade 4 and beyond, our state and country as well, FXW offers a series of experiential learning opportunities that are designed to develop our students’ leadership potential both inside and outside of the classroom. Some of these experiences, such as our ongoing partnership with Misericordia⁠—beginning with our Grade 2 year-long service focus on special needs, extend the scope of leadership by focusing on the power of empathy.

Typically during this time of year, our Grade 7 students are at Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center. This outdoor educational experience teaches skills that allow students to grow their confidence to make critical decisions, develop effective communication, respect diversity, and it encourages them to explore experiences outside their comfort zone. In spite of the many physical limitations currently imposed upon society, the Grade 7 ELA Team pushed outside the box of the pandemic to bring an eye-opening experience, literally and virtually, to the entire Class of 2022.

Grade 7 ELA faculty member Darby Evans shared the following recap of this new addition to the curriculum: “During the third week of school, Grade 7 students read the short story Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers, which features a protagonist who uses a wheelchair. This spurred a discussion on ableism and how it affects people with disabilities. Emily Voorde*, the University of Notre Dame’s Assistant Director of Accessibility Services, met with our Grade 7 scholars via Zoom at the end of this week. In anticipation of this visit, Grade 7 students submitted questions from which Ms. Voorde picked five areas of focus. She shared her experiences with ableism, the importance of using respectful terminology, and concrete ways we can fight ableism in our everyday lives. Our students asked insightful questions and wrote thoughtful reflections about our readings, discussions, and Ms. Voorde’s visit.”

A few reflections from our Grade 7 Thinkers and Leaders:

My biggest takeaway from this week is that it is important for everyone to stand up against ableism. Though you might not be affected by abelism on a daily basis, many people are. If only a few people are standing up together against this issue, then change might not come. However, if we all join together, more people with more ideas are more likely to accomplish the bigger goal, which is first for people to be aware of ableism and then for them to act against it. These talks about ableism have changed my perspective because I realize that I need to be more careful about what I say and do not say. Even if I am trying to be kind, it is possible that I could say something offensive and ableist that could really hurt someone. This is also important not only with ableism because there are some things that would offend one person but not another for many reasons. Because of this, I have learned that I have to be careful with my word choice just in general. – Alaina M.

My biggest takeaway from our talks is that we need to create a disabled-friendly environment. This will help make people with disabilities feel included and that they are a part of the entire community. I also learned that people have to be mindful about what they say, because you could easily commit a micro-aggression, which can have a negative impact on people’s lives. These talks based around ableism have shown me that people with disabilities are people too, just like people without disabilities. Now I can see that we should treat people with disabilities just like you would to anyone else. –Sebastian K.


Kendall Mallette, Director of Mission Integration

*Emily Voorde currently serves as an Assistant Director at the University of Notre Dame’s Sara Bea Accessibility Services, where she helps Notre Dame students with disabilities access academic accommodations and other learning needs. Emily was born with a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), commonly known as “brittle bone disease.” She uses a wheelchair and is a lifelong champion for people with disabilities. During her undergraduate years at Notre Dame, she started an annual wheelchair basketball tournament, which has become a beloved campus tradition. She earned master’s degrees in Education Policy and Education from Vanderbilt University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively. Previous to her current role, Emily worked as special assistant to Chasten Buttigieg on the Pete for America presidential campaign.