Imagine, a boy who sits alone during lunch, but he’s not doing it by choice. This boy has a social disability and can’t communicate with fellow students.
There is now a solution for this boy and students like him.
Over the past three years, the Reach Out Commission of ASB has been working to include different students or groups of students who may not participate in other school activities.
“Our goal is to create a safe environment for many different groups on campus to interact. We want to make students who often don’t feel comfortable going to events feel welcomed,” said Reach Out supervisor Abby Khouri.
Three years ago, Carlmont Administration and two students saw the need for this commission to make Carlmont more inclusive.
Activities Director Jim Kelly said, “The origin of the Reach Out commission was a series of conversations between Ms. Cho, me, and Mr. Crame about the need to create a way for more populations to be involved in our school activities. Putting our creative energy together, we saw that Service Council provided a unique opportunity to reach that goal. It helped that both Marion Demailly and Ariana Crame, while in the Leadership 2 class, expressed a desire to work specifically with students from the SAC class. Their combined energy once Service Council became official made Reach Out take off and enabled the success it has today.”
Before the creation of this group, alumni Demailly noticed a need for targeting this population of students.
“I wanted to create it because I saw a need for it. I noticed that this population was separated and excluded from the rest of the Carlmont population. I wanted to create a space where these students and everyone at Carlmont could feel included. I wanted to create a space where all kinds of students could learn from each other and make friends and connections,” said Demailly.
For some students, attending these events may be uncomfortable since involves different types of people. Reach Out commissioner senior Allison Granet reassures there are many reasons how to feel comfortable at their events.
“I think these events can be uncomfortable for students to attend but the goal of reach out is to help them feel comfortable going to these events. These events are safe and welcoming places where we try hard to make everyone feel included, and you shouldn’t feel hesitant to attend because you don’t know if you’ll fit in,” said Granet.
For others, this a way to stretch their comfort zones and have fun at the same time.
“I started coming last year because I heard about it and thought it was important. It’s just a great time, and it’s also important to me that I know I am doing something that makes an impact. I feel like I can help students be more successful at Carlmont. I think it’s really important to be able to help others while living your life,” said senior Casey Costello.
Reach Out participant and freshman Sam Erskine explains how these activities have made his transition easier at Carlmont.
“I have been to all three hangouts this year. It is nice to talk to other people and play games with them since my other school did not have this. I think it’s a fun thing to look forward to every month,” said Erskine.
Alfonso Villaseñor, a Carlmont parent saw a big difference in his son junior Victor Villaseñor over the years, who is an active participant at Reach Out events.
“It’s helping [Victor] to be more social and work on those social skills that he is going to need when he graduates. He is a lot more social and friendly after coming to these events. He likes everybody, and it seems like everybody likes him, so we are happy. The big takeaway is that it helps both the kids with special needs and the kids in the leadership group because they learn to be with kids who have special needs and vice versa,” said Villaseñor.
Reach Out has now expanded to work with other populations on Carlmont also, the English Language Learners class. Also, some of the commissioners are teacher assistants for some of these groups of students.
“Five of the eight commissioners are also T.A.’s in our class. They have chosen to have an extra period in their day that they don’t need to work with our students. I think it’s baby steps with our students, but I think it makes it more comfortable for them when they see peers that they recognize outside of class,” said Speech and Language Therapist Michelle Morris.
For alumni Demailly, her hopes for the Reach Out commission has been exceeded.
“I think it’s gone way beyond and grown so much bigger than my vision. My goal was just to have a small group of students interact with the social skills class, but now there’s the club and the hangouts, and I feel like a lot more people are involved around Carlmont,” said Demailly.
Reach Out will continue to hold monthly hangouts and club meetings that are open to all Carlmont students to particpate or help out with.