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About all things NFA, and published in the Sunday edition of the Norwich Bulletin, NFA World is a regular column written by Geoff Serra,  Director of Communications and Public Affairs. Check back regularly for a new posting.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

NFA Students to Attend National Generation Unified Leadership Summit

As 7,000 athletes from 177 countries convene during the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2015, perhaps the largest humanitarian event in the world, July 23-27 in Los Angeles, California, two NFA students, a senior and an upper, will be among 150 chosen leaders to learn from 30 global change mentors in the concurrent Generation Unified leadership summit.

The conference will train young people with and without intellectual disabilities to be change agents to create a unified culture in the future. Whereas people with intellectual disabilities are often seen as powerless, this summit is intended to help create leaders to own and make change.

Participants were chosen through a national competitive application process. Among other requirements, applicants must be between the ages of 16 – 25, apply as individuals or pairs, enrolled in a school at some level or in a community program, or be employed.

Most importantly, applicants must submit a project proposal demonstrating how they will become agents of change to create an inclusive culture for people with disabilities in their community. The conference offers applicants opportunities to gain the funds, training, mentorship, and a support network to turn their ideas into real action with genuine impact.
NFA senior Jeffrey Hynds and upper partner Connie Ma, both veteran participants in local unified sports, classes and activities at the Academy will be among that select group of mentored leaders. Their winning plan intends to extend the NFA unified culture and spirit to each of NFA’s partner districts. As part of their proposal, they cited preliminary planning with the Preston school district.
A unified culture is one which does not sort and group students by disability; rather, it pairs peers with and without disabilities to learn in classes, compete in athletics, and socialize. The result is an open environment in which all individuals are accepted and respected for their strengths.
Ma and Hynds are such a pair. A high performing academic student, Ma has a schedule filled with honors and advanced placement classes. She is driven to succeed and balances a full complement of co-curricular activities with outstanding grades. Passionate about sciences, she began her four years at NFA in ninth grade running for class office, and she hasn’t stopped running since.
Enrolled in NFA’s Independent Living Skills Program, Hynds has received specialized instruction in core academic subjects moving more and more into mainstreamed classes. Noted for his expertise using Legos, Hynds has created models of every building on the NFA campus and fashioned an intricate Lego representation of the NFA seal. That creativity is a window into his great potential. Hynds also interned for 2 years and was hired last summer to work in the NFA IT Department developing his facility for technology.
In fact, Hynds, is a significant special education success story. The trajectory of his progress in four years at NFA is nothing short of remarkable. He has improved his academic and social skills to a standard which qualified him as an applicant for Generation Unified. Today, in the gregarious, engaging, curious, and confident young man, there is little left of the shy, retiring ninth grader.
Both experienced unified sports participants, Hynds and Ma knew one another, and had collaborated in NFA’s Student Advisory Board. They both had taken a Unified Multi-Racial class co-taught by social studies teacher Henry Laudone and special education teacher Kathryn Beit. The class is a perfect example of generation unified; in it, young people of all intellectual abilities learn together, pushing one another to learn even more.
Next year, Hynds will move on to a specialized program at Mitchell College, while Ma will begin her senior year facing the rigor of the college admissions process. They will, however, meet up frequently and regularly to execute their ambitious plan to spread the goodness of a generation unified to NFA’s partners.
Their application states, “We are passionate and committed to spreading the powerful values of Generation Unified throughout our communities. Sharing our own Unified experiences with children is an inspiring opportunity that we do not take lightly. One by one, we will build upon our initial success until all students in all eight  partners have Unified Clubs and activities.”
In Los Angeles, Hynds and Ma will attend the Special Olympics World Summer Games Opening Ceremony and enjoy the spirit of the event. They will attend workshops and listen to influential speakers. In addition, they will present their project to a panel of VIP judges, and if nominated, their project will be adopted by a judge and be funded to a maximum of $5,000.
When asked about their project, they respond, “We want to create an environment in which all are comfortable, accepted, and safe by engaging students in social, club, and athletic activities outside of the classroom. We want to design activities to promote social acceptance and non-competitive athletic activities for all.
“Our idea is to bring members of NFA’s Unified classes, club, and athletics to each of our eight partner districts to help them establish their own programs. We hope to engage students and adults in each partner community in planning and starting a unified culture so that it lasts to serve all students long after we are done.”
What could be more open spirited and winning than that?


Classes resume tomorrow, ending spring break.
Celebrate NFA:  11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday, May 16, Family, Fun, Food, Games, Recreation, Crafts and More – For Wildcats of All Ages!
Senior Final Exams:  June 3 – 8; Underclass Final Exams:  June 10 – 15; Graduation:  4 p.m., Monday, June 15
FINAL THOUGHT:  Stella Young says “Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.”

Posted by serrag on Sunday April 19 at 08:59AM
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