When I Ventured to the Mysterious Hallway of My Middle School
There was a mysterious little hallway tucked away at Armstrong Middle School that nobody, at least nobody I knew of, had classes in. You saw kids once in a blue moon wander in there, but for what? Who knew?
When the computer lab opened up in that hall, kids started to notice the different world they stepped in. It turned out to be a place called “K wing” but properly known as the special education department.
In 1999, when I was in the sixth grade, I was introduced to the world of the K wing. I spent some time in special ed when I was younger, but this time, I wasn’t a student.
After being caught up in some nonsense preteen melodrama, I vented to my guidance counselor that nobody understood the struggles I faced as a person with a disability. As a matter of fact, my exact words to her were, “I am the only one in this school with a disability. Why isn’t there anyone else like me?”
“Oh, but you’re not the only one,” she reassured me. “Meet me in the K wing tomorrow. You’ll be surprised at what’s in there.”
The following day, I walked into a large room with a group of about 12 teens of various disabilities, doing everything from passing out their homework assignments to learning how to make coffee for the teachers — minor tasks aimed at helping them be successful in the adult world. Some were in wheelchairs, others used little picture devices that reminded me of a modern iPad. But all of them were like me — a teenager just looking for acceptance and strength.
I became captivated by their world and got to know plenty of them on a personal level. They enjoyed having someone to spend their homeroom period with them.
“I think I might make this a thing,” I thought.
From that moment, I figured I could make a difference, even if it meant sticking out like a sore thumb. The plan to be as normal as possible went out the window, but I didn’t care. Each homeroom period, I made an attempt to be there. I was eventually added to their homeroom roster.
A few good friends came out of it, and a lot of great friends from the mainstream classes wanted to join in on the fun. Soon it became a thing.
Eventually, word got out that the kids our fellow student body made fun of were actually cool. We shared stuff in common like music, movies, cartoons and the like.
We were the K crew.
From our time together, we made friendships that lasted a lifetime — not to mention we gained a better understanding of what life was on the other side of the hallway.
Eventually, we had it set where some of the younger kids who were caught teasing would spend a week with us to learn the same lessons we learned on our own. By volunteering our time, we made a small indent on our student body.
We learned what would soon be referred to as inclusion. I guess you can say we were the “O.G.’s of Inclusion,” as the kiddos put it. We learned we are all the same, despite what society and our peers had to say.
What started off as a simple tour in an attempt to ease my teenage woes became something beautiful.
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