Treating people with dignity and respect
Members of the ARCh Youth Team (from left) Mukwonago High School sophomore Isabella Salinas, Brookfield East High School seniors Michael Sipek, Alexia Ford and Becca Bukvich, Park View Middle School eighth grader Brad Weller, and Brookfield East junior Esther Gvora present a game show skit to demonstrate how people shouldn't be defined by their looks. Photo by: Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Everyone loves Oreos, yet there are different ways to eat them - even different types of Oreos to enjoy. Some may nibble, some may break the cookie in half, some may twist, some may dunk - proof that people want differences. Yet why can't we accept differences in people as easily as we accept cookie variations?
That was a question posed to students at Clarendon Avenue Elementary School last week when the ARCh (Association for the Rights of Citizens with handicaps) Youth Team presented "Differences - Gotta Have 'Em."
The ARCh Youth Team is a group of teens who believe "that the world can be changed if we look beyond the labels and stereotypes to see each person's abilities." Students on the youth team come from grades seven through 12 and attend different schools.
Since November 1986 the youth team has consistently demonstrated "the best of what young people offer: courage, compassion and activism," and have "inspired hundreds of thousands of people with simple but profound message - that all people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect," according to the ARCh alumni newsletter.
Cassidy Sanchez was "an outstanding member of the ARCh Youth Team during her four years at Mukwonago High School, and is now a dedicated alumnus who continues to support the agency with time and talent, and has even created a scholarship fund to recognize seniors who demonstrate exemplary service and leadership in ARCh," said Jennifer Horth, executive director for ARCh.
Sanchez joined the ARCh her sophomore year, brought to the youth team by a friend. While she started with the group because she knew the service hours would look good to colleges, that wasn't why she stuck around.
"I was drawn to ARCh because of the chance to help people with disabilities and was fortunate to be part of the first 'Differences: Gotta have 'em' campaign spreading the message of accepting everyone's differences," said Sanchez, who was able to bring that message to Mukwonago her senior year. "When I broke my neck junior year, the youth team was one place I could go and still feel accepted and useful despite my facial scars and neck brace."
Her service with the youth team helped her earn quite a few scholarships. She continued her involvement in college as a counselor and chaperone for events.
Now her work as a board-certified pediatric physical therapist reflects the advocacy she learned at ARCh.
"I work with children with disabilities, and families often thank me for going out of my way for their children when I just was doing what I thought they needed," Sanchez explained. "I'm sure that value came from service to ARCh."
She continues to support ARC financial donations and helps to recruit members "because I value the experience I had there and the work they do supporting families and educating people to accept differences and prevent disabilities." A few years ago Sanchez and her husband started a scholarship for committed youth team members to recognize an outstanding senior each year, based mostly on what the student has done for ARCh.
Current youth team
This year's youth team consists of students from Brookfield East, Hamilton, Waukesha West and Arrowhead high schools, along with several middle schools, including Park View Middle School.
Mukwonago High School sophomore Isabella Salinas joined ARCh three years ago as an eighth-grader at Park View Middle School after she saw a presentation because she wanted to help people and wanted to make a difference. The experience has taught her that some of the coolest people are kids other teens might not talk to, teens with disabilities.
"I've learned not to judge people by what they look like," said Salinas.
While MHS has brought Challenge Day and SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) to the school to promote acceptance, Salinas said she has seen some change, but the school "still has a long way to go."
ARCh is recruiting new members to help inspire others to treat people with dignity and respect. Interested students should send their name, address, school, grade and email to ARCh, 419 Frederick St., Waukesha, WI 53186.
Join the ARCh Youth Team
Send name, address, school and grade, and email to:
ARCh, 419 Frederick St.
Waukesha, WI 53186
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