Rural Missouri - October 2011 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S by Heather Berry hberry@ruralmissouri.coop A dmit it — you’ve probably used the word “retard” or “retarded” at least once in your life. The word often is used as an adjective — a descriptive word — such as “what a retarded thing to say.” “Nobody needs the ‘R’ word in their vocabulary, nobody,” says 19-year-old Jared Niemeyer, the bright yellow words “Be the change” nearly jumping off his black T-shirt. The 2011 Kirksville High School graduate knows what it’s like to be called the “R” word. Jared has Down syndrome. While that may give him a unique set of difficulties to overcome, it in no way makes him less of a person. Everyone has a disability or shortcoming of some sort — it’s just that some of them are more obvious than others. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words, such as the “R” word, can exclude people and break hearts. Teens in this north-central Missouri town, including Jared and LaPlata High School student, Elizabeth Janes, are working hard to remove the “R” word from vocabularies. “Elizabeth has been involved with Special North-central Missouri teens, Elizabeth Janes, left, and Jared Niemeyer have pledged to help “Spread the Olympics since she was about 8 years old,” says Word to End the Word” and to get as many peers as possible to do the same. her mother, Jaime Janes, who’s been the coach and special education teacher at Kirksville High for 16 years. “She’s played as a unified partner on the basketball and bowling teams, serving as a mentor and friend to the players.” Now 16, Elizabeth isn’t old enough to be a Special Olympics coach, but she intends to be someday. Until then, Elizabeth is helping effect change at her school and in her community. With her mom serving as a Special Olympics coach, Elizabeth entered high school vowing to see that her word,” says Brian. “If I hear the word used, I don’t they might implement Special Olympics’ “Spread fellow students with intellectual disabilities would mind calling someone out on it. It’s hurtful and the Word to End the Word” campaign at school. be treated as equals by their peers. offensive to me as well as my friends who might “We want students of all ages to take the ‘R’ “Most kids don’t even understand that using have disabilities.” word out of their vocabulary,” says Elizabeth. the ‘R’ word is offensive,” says Elizabeth, who’s His buddy Jared agrees. “When I hear the word “The goal is to unify everyone and teach them to family is a member of Macon Electric Cooperative. used, it makes me angry,” he says. “But people respect each other.” “If you ask them why they chose to use that word, know now, and they’re more aware of what They asked 18 other classmates to serve on the most of them just shrug their shoulders because they’re saying.” local committee. The students made buttons that they don’t know what they’re saying. While “Spread the Word to End the Word” has promoted acceptance, respect and unity. They “It’s become one of those slang words used to only been in place for the past two school years, made banners. They wore T-shirts touting “Be the mean dumb, stupid or idiotic,” she says. “Sadly, changes are occurring. change.” They even held an assembly with the word doesn’t translate as any of “Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it is special guest Bill Chott, the principal on those — and it makes the person using • happening,” says Jared’s mother, Brenda, a memTV’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” talking the word look very uncool.” Kirksville ber of Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative about why it’s disrespectful to use the The duo’s mission to rid Kirksville from Edina. “Being the change, like these kids “R” word. of the “R” word began four years ago when are doing, is an ongoing effort. This program is Next, they gave students the Jared began attending the school. Both are all about acceptance, respect and including those opportunity to commit to the members of the Missouri Youth Activation who might be different from ourselves. We need campaign by signing pledge Committee, which is sponsored by Special to look at the abilities people like Jared have and cards. Of Kirksville’s 2,500 stuOlympics. As an athlete, Jared also was think of them as ‘differently abled,’ not disabled.” dents, 1,500 signed cards. Students selected two years ago as one of 20 athletes While he’s no longer in high school, Jared have the chance to pledge at school each March. who serve on the organization’s national Youth keeps up with many of his friends when he’s Kirksville high school junior Brian Pagliai, Activation Committee. competing in Special Olympics’ basketball, track 17, has been friends with Jared for several years. The national YAC works on leadership developand field, soccer and bowling. Friends such as Injured during last year’s baseball season, Brian ment to encourage inclusion in education, comElizabeth usually play on teams as mentors, while sat on the sideline much of the season and got to munity and employment settings. The Missouri other friends, like Brian, show up in the stands to know Jared, the team manager, even better. group also hosts an annual convention to moticheer Jared on during competitions. “People with disabilities can really make a difvate the youth to take the message back to their “There’s a lot I’ve learned from Jared, such as ference. They face challenges most of us don’t face schools. kindness or faithfulness,” says Brian. “But most of and they deserve our respect,” says Brian. “ProJared headed to his first national meeting all, I’ve learned unconditional love.” grams like this give them a real voice.” “unsure,” according to his mother, Brenda NieBrian says he’s heard the “R” word used plenty meyer, a counselor at Kirksville High. “But when To take the pledge online to “Spread the Word to of times, but he feels there’s been a big change he came home, he said, ‘Our school has to do End the Word,” go to www.r-word.org. To find out among students since the “Spread the Word to something!’” how to implement this program in your school, contact End the Word” campaign was promoted at school. That’s when he and Elizabeth sat down and Trish Lutz, area service director for Special Olympics at “While I still do hear the word used once in a started brainstorming. Soon the two were visiting 1-800-846-2682 or lutz@somo.org. while, heads turn now when people use the “R” with the principal and superintendent about how Fans of Respect Kirksville teens effect change with their words and actions 36 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://www.r-word.org http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2011

Rural Missouri - October 2011
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Dining on the tracks
Zagonyi’s Charge
Staying on target
Outdoors
Husking heritage
Painting memories
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
On the brink
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

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