By Cameron Minor
Inclusivity, integration, and celebration of scholars from all backgrounds are core values that Cedar Hill ISD strives to incorporate into school and community culture.
In pursuit of these principles, Waterford Oaks Elementary School staff and parents planned a Down Syndrome Awareness Walk last Friday to celebrate the uniqueness of their special needs scholars.
According to Waterford Oaks Physical Education Teacher (and Parent Liaison) Wayne Joseph, the event was planned a month in advance. It required teamwork and communal involvement to bring appreciation to scholars with Down Syndrome.
Luckily, with the help of WOE Principal William Davis, Counselor Ryann Campbell , Special Education Teacher Angie Gonzales, along with former teacher (and CHISD Graduate) Melissa Tyler, the walk was a success that demonstrated the interconnectedness of developing scholars and their special needs classmates.
An endearing and joyful down syndrome scholar, Joseph (known as Jojo, by friends and family) Ayeni has made his impression on scholars and staff members through the light-hearted nature he carries that brightens the day of those he comes across.
Gloria Ayeni, Jojo’s mother, is a full-time nursing student that balances the pressures of a 40-hour work week, attending nursing school, and taking care of her beloved son. She said that “taking care of Joseph is amazing because he is a lovely boy, always happy and lovely to be with,” and states, “I bless God for giving him to me, and He has been helping me all the way.”
In fact, Christina Gonzalez, third through fifth-grade skills teacher, explained the inspiration behind the walk was to bring awareness to scholars with disabilities and encourage a spirit of unity amongst scholars at Waterford Oaks.
Her involved paraprofessional, Bailey Lemon, added that “this walk means everything to her because she loves to see her students interact with different groups of children.”
Even second-grade scholar, Aurielle, described the importance of socializing with special education students so they can “be heard and included.”
With future plans of an Autism-Awareness walk this spring, the staff and community surrounding Waterford Oaks will continue to encourage the celebration of differences, uniqueness and involvement of all scholars.