Kim Holt, Inclusion Advocate at Perspectives Preparatory Academy, shares her personal story of advocacy and how it relates to her role as Inclusion Advocate.
Have you ever been in a position where you have had to advocate for yourself?
I have found having certain physical or mental limitations can force you to learn to listen and then speak up. Let me explain with a simple story of my own. I recently was given the news that I have a Vitamin D deficiency. Simple right? Well, let me back my story up just a bit. I have lived with Epilepsy since I was fifteen years old, and in my late thirties I began losing my hearing to a genetic disease called Otosclerosis. Feeling tired was apart of my day-to-day life -- no big deal because I am invincible, right? Last fall I was coming home and falling fast asleep by six p.m. all the while telling myself, “Kim, you have a vigorous job. You don’t stop from sunup to sundown, this is normal.” Obviously, it was more than my job but I wasn’t listening.
Do you realize that sometimes our body’s can just be maxed out in ways which cause us to show emotions until we listen to what our bodies are trying tell us? Our bodies will find ways to communicate; for me it usually comes in the form of tears. I began to get so so tired that I would cry. I wasn’t just emotional, my body was vitamin D deficient but I was ignoring the signs.
Have you ever seen a child/student act out with emotion or behavior that just doesn’t match the situation, environment or their normal personality? What about underlying mental or physically issues which haven't yet been discovered being possible? Could it be those communication barriers exist because they don’t know what their body is fighting? How different would their world be if they just needed to learn the “why” behind what they were feeling? We know something is there but they just don’t know how yet to communicate that they need help.
My job is to advocate. I am an Inclusion Advocate at Perspectives Preparatory Academy and I advocate for the well-being of all types of students. Advocacy is a collaborative team effort which starts with open communication. I watch, I listen, I help, I share, and I am still. It is from this place that I am able to share and advocate with parents, teachers, therapists, and other Inclusion advocates and all others involved. However, advocating for yourself is something you have to learn how to do and It is not always natural.
When I first learned about my hearing loss there was a bit of a transition period. Actually, the adjustment is ongoing due to the diagnosis being permanent hearing loss. I was once told, “ This is your problem and not up to others to fix. Please stop treating others as though it is their fault.” Sounds harsh, right? Reality of it is, I didn’t understand how to advocate for myself with this new situation, but instead I was acting out and being defensive.
I quickly learned, I just needed to let others know of my current situation and NOT be embarrassed. Yes, I said embarrassed because it was easy to focus on the fact that I now had more things wrong with me. I FELT like a walking medical mess. If I felt like this as an adult is any wonder why children wouldn’t feel the same way?
Advocacy is a learning experience. I had to learn that going into certain social settings I needed to reposition myself. It is hard not to feel like you are a burden but I have to keep encouraging myself NOT to crawl into a corner and give up. Sometimes when its new, we don’t know what to do or how to react and neither do our kids.
Advocacy for me is to give service, encourage, teach others to understand themselves, guide, reinforce, help them listen to their bodies, comfort, encourage, care, and finally to never give up when others give up on themselves. Advocacy has become my ministry. It is staying patient. It is giving. It is not harmful or ill will when shown right. It is not a sign of weakness, powerlessness or handicapness.
To be an Inclusion Advocate at PPA has the most influential career in my life.
Nacy Ryerson, Dean of School at Perspectives Preparatory Academy, shares about taking risks and changing perspectives in inclusive education.
Starting a brand-new school is something that people find both shocking and daunting-it is the fear of the unknown. In 2015, Josh and Courtney Ungaro, the founders of Perspectives Preparatory Academy, asked me if I would be willing to start a school. As shocked and humbled as I was, I had the same fears as many would when thinking about the task at hand.
Who even starts a school? How would we even go about doing this? The key was to use the strengths of the teachers, administration, founders, and community members to create something unique and special. Changing the landscape of education wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth every second, every decision, and every risk from start to finish.
Perspectives Preparatory is a tuition-free private school, which celebrates student’s strengths. From the early planning days of six students in the Spring of 2017 to twenty-four students now enrolled, we have grown our wait-list to over 220 students. PPA is an inclusive school that serves a diverse student population–50% of our students have differing abilities and as such qualify as students with a disability, the remaining 50% are neurotypical do not qualify under IDEA, but we also have a gifted population of 8%. Keep in mind some of our gifted students also have a “differing ability” so we stay true to the inclusive model.
PPA is a tuition-free school because we believe that families deserve the highest quality college preparatory education for their learner. We focus on student strengths; our learners pursue their passions in their educational experience and learn from one another. The world is full of beautiful amazing humans that can and will contribute to their communities and PPA desires to change perspectives in our community and globally.
Taking a Risk
Starting a school might seem daunting, but I am glad our founders had the dream and took the chance to better serve the future of our community. Josh and Courtney Ungaro took a chance for our learners to choose who they will become. Our learners will be our future doctors, scientists, teachers or whoever else they choose.
Take a chance in your environment to better serve your learners in an inclusive setting–kids deserve for us all to take a risk.
Dean of School
Perspectives Preparatory Academy