THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Colleen Lang

When my daughter Rebecca was born almost 17 years ago, one of the biggest fears or worries was that she wouldn’t be welcomed or included by her peers. Well, here we are almost 17 years later, and Rebecca has a better social life with her high school friends than I could have ever imagined. As her teacher, Mr. Main stated, “Rebecca is a very social young lady with familiar staff and students. Her joyous personality attracts them to her which increases her personal interactions.”

Rebecca attends elective classes such as Art, Computer Applications, Digital Photography, etc. during the day with peer tutors. It is the after school activities with friends that have been a huge impact on Rebecca’s life. Her friends will pick her up for football games, take her for ice cream, go to the beach, and have sleepovers. Rebecca’s inclusion has not only been positive for her but also for her friends. One of Rebecca’s best friends, Gabby Trongone, said:

Becca’s inclusion in school and Best Buddies has opened up friendship opportunities and life skills essential for everyday life.  Her positive spirit, love and diva style make her into the beautiful young lady she is today.  She is my best friend and my senior year in high school wouldn’t have been fulfilled without her.  I’m so thankful to have a best friend like Becca and I can’t wait for all the fun journey’s we have to come.

For Rebecca, inclusion is not about being in the same math class or science class but more about being social and interactive with her peers. Inclusion has given her the same life experiences and adventures that her typical peers have, and I couldn’t be happier for her.

As a mom of a child with special needs, you have so many worries about the future for your child and I can say complete honesty that I am so thankful for our school district and the town that we live in for having such a wonderful inclusive atmosphere for not only my daughter but for everyone. Because doesn’t everyone deserve to feel like they belong and matter?

Photo submission from Colleen Lang

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.

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