News and Events
Recognizing a “person” first is always important, as someone should never be defined by a disability. On January 16, 2019, Fridley Middle School (FMS) and R.L. Stevenson Elementary School students and staff celebrated Person First Day as part of the #SpeakKindness campaign. Created by Special Olympics Minnesota, Person First Day recognizes and promotes person-first language. This means the “person” is always named first (i.e. person with a disability), which emphasizes the person as an individual, rather than defining them with their disability. Both FMS and Stevenson have recently become Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. Unified Champion Schools implement three components, including Inclusive Youth Leadership, Unified Sports and Whole School Engagement, which are all areas that are crucial for a positive and inclusive school culture.
On Person First Day, students at each school had the opportunity to add their fingerprint on a #SpeakKindness banner, symbolizing their commitment to always use person-first language, celebrate inclusion, and speak with kindness. The week prior, Stevenson students participated in various activities in their classrooms, which included recognizing kind vs. unkind words, kindness poems and writing kind notes to others. FMS students also filled out “kindness memos” which will be shared with students and displayed around the middle school.
“The Speak Kindness campaign gives us a platform to educate students on how to properly address all people,” said Jessica Mularie, a special education teacher at FMS. “For our students, we want to jumpstart awareness of how our words impact others.”
FMS social worker Jaimie Beran added that Person First Day allows students to remember that the language they use everyday matters.
“We often ask students to be caring and considerate, respectful to others, and to treat others the way that they want to be treated. This opportunity gave our middle schoolers a tangible concept of what that means, specifically with students who may speak, behave or look different than they do,” Beran said. “It’s clear that our students are able to understand the power of language and inclusion, and I’m excited to see the ways our students can use their experience at FMS to change the world for the better.”
For elementary school students, the campaign helps to promote a positive, inclusive community at the school. Stevenson was the first elementary school in the Unified Schools program to celebrate and participate in Person First Day.
“We want to teach our students that how we speak to others is important,” said Stevenson special education teacher Amanda Woll. “This was such a great opportunity to showcase the importance of celebrating kindness. By having all our students participate in this, we are making a positive movement toward an inclusive community of all individuals with and without disabilities.”
Unified Champion Schools
This school year is the first for both FMS and Stevenson to participate in the Unified Schools movement with Special Olympics Minnesota. As both schools are now Unified Champion Schools, they provide activities that contribute to the three components (Inclusive Youth Leadership, Unified Sports and Whole School Engagement) to involve the entire student body, as well as various unified opportunities and classes for students.
At Stevenson, students have been and will be participating in multiple school engagement opportunities including: Unity Day (October 24), Person First Day (January 16), and Respect Day (March 6). Additionally, students at Stevenson partake in Unified Physical Education classes and Unified Club, both which foster inclusive and positive school environments.
At FMS, students have the opportunity to participate in a Unified WIN (What I Need) class. WIN is a dedicated intervention or enrichment time for 7th and 8th grade students and the Unified WIN class is held once a week. During this time, students play games and participate in guided conversations and activities that allow them to build meaningful friendships with one another.