Every so often a news story comes along that rises not just above the fray of day-to-day dealings at Town Hall and but above even the “good news” features about the characters and events in our communities. We’re talking about a story that is uplifting and makes you step back from your own day-to-day fray and look at things in a broader perspective.
We carried such a story in Thursday’s edition. Anna Maria Lemoine told us all about the Stonington High School Unified Talent Show, being staged tonight at the school. The show features students with disabilities paired with student peers who provide support and encouragement.
We’ve long heard about unified sports teams, which provide students with disabilities a shot to play before a crowd on the high school basketball court or volleyball court. In this case, the school’s Unified Talents program, started just last year, provides a chance for these students who lean toward the performing arts to take part in the real thing, on the stage, under the lights and before a live audience,
Tonight’s show, which starts at 5 in the school auditorium and is free to the public, will include singing, dancing, drama and comedy acts.
Eileen Fiore, adviser to Unified Talents, said the program gives students with disabilities “the opportunity to perform outside of a theater setting. They’re getting to do what they want to do and interact with an audience.”
Victoria Johnson, a sophomore who joined the program last year as a peer coach said she learned from the experience that “if you have something you want to do, you should just go with it. I have fallen in love with Unified Talents.”
Tonight, she’ll be singing with Billy Wilcox, a junior with autism, who said “I like to sing, and it’s much better with ‘Tori.’ I am happy when I sing. I don’t get nervous.”
The concept itself is enough to bring a smile. But what raises it to uplifting status is hearing about what the program does for the peer mentors who take their time to encourage their partners.
“The kids who volunteer to be involved with Unified Talents have hearts of gold,” said Deidre Toole, a special education teacher at the school. “They really get it. These are the future special education teachers.”
And that just paints a great picture of teens learning about life outside their comfortable sphere.