Students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (ERHS) participated in a weeklong program known as C.H.E.E.R. (Consciousness Helps Encourage Equal Respect). The C.H.E.E.R. program was founded by Kurt Warner, former NFL quarterback and is designed to encourage inclusion and educate students to see their fellow peers with special needs as more than their disabilities. The program invites student volunteers, C.H.E.E.R. leaders, to adopt a disability for a day such as using a wheelchair or using visual impairment goggles, according to Warner’s foundation website. The weeklong activities at ERHS included video productions to raise awareness about respecting others and ending stigma. In addition, a positive poster campaign titled, “You Are” was an activity that students participated in during that week. The “You Are” posters were placed throughout campus, and included positive words to describe persons with disabilities. A debriefing session was also held by C.H.E.E.R. leaders where students shared their experiences and lessons learned from the program.
“Yesterday I was non-verbal. I am in choir and not being able to sing or speak was difficult; this experience gives you some insight on how people that can’t talk feel,” said Angelica Vasquez, freshman.
Samantha, a junior at ERHS shared, “…this experience opened up a lot of people’s eyes to see what kids with disabilities go through everyday.” She added, “I’m really glad I got to be a part of this and gain a better understanding.”
Teacher, Cara Schneider reflected on this weeklong program by sharing how her students reacted to the video production and poster activity. “My homeroom students were so engaged and it was so amazing to watch them write words on the poster as every single one contributed to it. In all four years, I have not seen them participate with that much enthusiasm- it really touched them, and I was really proud of them,” she said.
When asked about spearheading this program at ERHS, Jordan Samson, Life Skills Teacher said, “C.H.E.E.R. makes students on our campus realize that there isn’t a difference between all students. Everyone is the same; they just have different needs than other students.” When asked about his inspiration to take on the weeklong endeavor Mr. Samson said, “I’m inspired by my students. Teaching them is my passion, and I wanted to teach and spread that awareness to my campus, staff, and to my community to let them see how wonderful these kids are.”
The program will culminate with a video production by ERHS students that highlights the weeklong experience and includes a message from Kurt Warner that will be shared with all students on March 19th and 20th.
To learn more about C.H.E.E.R., please click here.