SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School students joined members of the district’s Special Services department to hold a Disability Awareness assembly at the Helen Morgan school.  Danielle Hamblin, director of special services, spoke about the initiative at the February board of education meeting last week.

Monica Wall, Transition Coordinator for students 14-years-old and older, reached out to high school English teacher Danielle Kopp to see if students would be interested in helping with the program, Hamblin said.

Kopp is the advisor of student organizations including National Honor Society, Key Club and Tomorrow’s Teachers.  “Within minutes of putting out the sign-up sheet, it was full,” Kopp said.

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Hamblin said 18 student “role models” gave their time to the Helen Morgan students. “This speaks volumes about the students in the high school,” Hamblin said.  The high school students received “about 10 minutes of training that morning,” before manning tables for the fourth grade Helen Morgan students participating in the assembly.

The students had seven different stations provided experiences for participants to walk in the shoes of those with learning disabilities, sensory needs and physical, auditory, visual, motor and attentional challenge, according to Hamblin.

The program followed up on the activities of the fall based on the book Wonder at the fourth and fifth grade school.  Hamblin said “this assembly was a hands-on opportunity for students to take part in various simulations designed to raise awareness about all types of disabilities.”

The board of education members and administrators were asked to participate in a shortened version of the assembly stations.  They had sensory tools, used to give the Helen Morgan students a chance to see what it is like to have various learning disabilities.   

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Daniel Johnson and board president Kelly McEvoy put socks on their hands and were asked to perform tasks; McEvoy had a puzzle, Johnson had a lunchbox to unpack, to simulate neuromuscular disabilities, according to Wall.

Board members Jack Surdoval gave voice commands to blindfolded board member Joanne Hoover, guiding her through an obstacle course.

Finally, all at the board table were asked to communicate with sign language. 

In addition to Hamblin, Wall, Kopp, Autumn and Nancy, participants from Special Services included;

  • Adrienne Castorina, Supervisor of Special Services,
  • Danielle Burke, District Occupational Therapist,
  • Judy Hart, Helen Morgan School Special and Language Specialist

Sparta High School student Role Model Autumn said, “It is different to go out and be the teacher.”

“It was a great thing to be a part of,” student Role Model Nancy said. “I’m glad I did it.”  Amber agreed.

Hamblin said the assembly will be brought to Alpine Elementary School in March.