Simple yet eloquent, this hand-written poster held by three Heron School students today: “Treat others like you want to be treated.”
“We All Have Talents,” read another student poster.
“We all belong.”
“Acceptance Begins with a Smile.”
The kids were participating in Heron’s United Walk, marking the climax of a week-long slate of activities encouraging students to make new friends, reach out to peers with disabilities, appreciate differences, tolerate, emphathize, listen, understand, care, advocate, support.
“Make a New Friend” Monday was followed by “Take Pride Tuesday,” then “Mental Health Awareness and Wind Down Wednesday” and “Ability Awareness” Thursday. Then came today’s long-awaited unity walk.
Heron Flyers of all ages, grades, cultures, ethnicities and abilities gathered to walk together, in solidarity and friendship, practicing the inclusion they had discussed in class all week. About a thousand students, each different, all Flyers, many carrying hand-written posters with personal messages of inclusion. Impressive.
Principal Amy Whitten calls the unity walk one of her favorite activities of the year. It extended for several blocks, to and through Heron Park, then back onto campus, where students enjoyed several minutes of amplified music, dancing, laughter and unbridled joy before heading back to class.
Asked what words came to mind as she watched the United Walk, Whitten replied with a smile: “Community, love and respect.”
Heron’s United Week actually started out as an initiative to raise disability awareness but now, in its fourth year, the five-day celebration has evolved into respecting diversity of all types, Whitten said, adding that much credit goes to Heron’s special-education team.
“We talk about valuing our diversity and acknowledging the things that make us different, but also celebrating what make us the same, and unite us,” Whitten said of the week’s student activities.
When mental health was the theme, on Wednesday, Whitten and the school psychologist teamed up to teach yoga to kids at lunch.
“That was really fun,” Whitten said.
Several Heron students interviewed after today’s unity walk said the week’s special events were good for the school.
“What I learned from this week was to be kind to everyone,” said Alondra, a 6th-grader.
“It really brought the school together,” said Jillian, 11, who learned that “everybody is the same and nobody should be treated less than anybody else.”
“I learned that everybody has to show kindness – and not just this week,” added Aubree, 9.