Part of being a pilot site for the KY Peer Support Network Project is holding a community conversation. A community conversation is an event where members of the community are invited to come together and discuss an important issue; in this case, expanding friendships and social inclusion for students with significant disabilities. Model Laboratory School in Richmond, KY held their community conversation in November of 2015. One idea that came up in the discussion between school staff, community members, and families was holding a similar event where students at Model could talk and generate their own ideas about how to expand social opportunities for their peers with disabilities. A few weeks later, Model held the first student-led community conversation on behalf of the KY Peer Support Network Project.
Many of the students who were present are currently involved in a peer network or provide peer support in a classroom. Students with disabilities were also present at the event, as well as Model staff and some family members. In typical community conversation fashion, a discussion question was presented and students spent 10-15 minutes in small groups generating responses to the question before they got up and moved to different tables to confer with a new group. The event created lively conversation and the students had wonderful ideas about expanding their peers’ social experiences. Below are quotes from student attendees:
“I really enjoyed this meeting. I learned a ton. I’m really excited.”
“… I liked how the teachers listened to us and there were literally no bad ideas. I think maybe sometime like we could all meet somewhere to eat and talk about our ideas too.”
“I really enjoy this program because not only does it build my relationship with (Student) and (Student) but I also love proving to the students with disabilities and the ones without, that their disability doesn’t matter. I want people to see beyond the disability like I do. This club gives everyone in it a good experience and you get to learn new things about each other.”
Thank you to Model Lab and all those present for your commitment to all students. We hope to see more student-led conversations around this important topic.