Building Bridges Through Inclusion

The Phoenix Center’s Journey to Foster Understanding & Friendship

The Phoenix Center (TPC) is pioneering efforts to foster inclusion and enhance social skills among students from different backgrounds through a series of engaging and educational events. Tracy Hanna, MSW, LSW and a dedicated school social worker at The Phoenix Center, has played a pivotal role in orchestrating these initiatives, which are designed to bring together students from The Phoenix Center and Washington School.

The concept of inclusion is beautifully simple yet profoundly impactful. It involves students from Washington School, known as the Washington School Ambassadors, engaging with students from TPC. Conveniently, the school is right around the corner from TPC. This partnership not only provides an opportunity for the ambassadors to step into a mentoring role but also allows students to forge meaningful relationships with their peers. This school year alone, TPC has hosted seven inclusion events to date, each designed to nurture these connections and build lasting friendships.

One of the standout activities includes an annual pumpkin picking and decorating event held at Washington School. This event allows students to collaborate creatively while enjoying the simple pleasures of autumn. Another favorite is the Turkey Trot, where Washington students support their TPC counterparts in a fun and festive run, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and mutual encouragement.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of these inclusion events is their ability to bring joy and mutual respect into the lives of all participants. The interactions during these events help dismantle barriers and foster a deep understanding among students. As Tracy points out, these activities are not just about having fun; they are crucial for building social skills, enhancing self-esteem, and reducing stigma.

Inclusion benefits everyone involved, enhancing empathy and respect for neurodiversity. These events provide a platform for students to not only see but also celebrate their differences and similarities. Such initiatives are crucial in educating the broader community, too, as they help families understand and appreciate the richness of neurodiversity.

Looking forward, TPC plans to continue its inclusion activities, including a continued partnership with Abundant Life Academy. This collaboration aims to provide similar inclusive experiences for our students.

As we reflect on the impact of these inclusion events, it’s clear that they offer more than just fun and games; they are a fundamental part of educating our youth about the importance of empathy, acceptance, respect, and friendship. Through hands-on experiences and shared moments, The Phoenix Center and Washington School are not just educating students; they are shaping the future of our community—one inclusion event at a time.