Each month, we celebrate an individual who is instrumental in helping make this world a more inclusive place. For the month of June, 2014, we celebrate Sunny Smith!
Congratulations to Sunny, Director of the Cody Child Development Center at Army Child, Youth, and School Services!
Sunny took a moment to answer some of our questions about her work in inclusion:
When were you first introduced to inclusion? Why did you choose to become a champion for inclusion?
I have worked for Army Child, Youth, and School Services for 18 years. I have seen many children and families with different needs and abilities, recognizing that everyone is an individual and has individual needs to be met.
What do you love about inclusion?
Inclusion teaches us to look at individuals– we can carry that skill throughout our lives, working with children, staff, and parents.
What is your vision for an inclusive world?
My vision includes being a role model for staff. A culture change is what is needed– if someone can see how to work with children of all different abilities, they will pay it forward. Children do what they are taught. It is our responsibility to see differences and celebrate them.
Did you overcome a barrier or roadblock regarding exclusion/inclusion?
I overcame a personal roadblock. I don’t have a defined special need, but I recognize within myself that I am a bit “unorthodox” in working with staff, children, and adults, even in my personal life. I learned to celebrate the fact that I see people and children for what they are– not what cultures define them to be. That can be a lonely road sometimes.
[Side note: We hope that this road becomes less and less lonely as more people begin to see the world the way you do, Sunny! Inclusion is a social movement that is sweeping the world!]
What is one of your most memorable inclusion experiences?
I planned and executed a camp for children with differing abilities on Fort Campbell. One of my most memorable inclusion experiences was watching a little boy get to use the giant swing on an outdoor recreation climbing wall. The look of pure joy and exhilaration on his face was priceless.
What is your top tip that you would give to someone working with children?
If you don’t feel the complete and total love and understanding from a child, please find another profession. Being authentic and honest and trying to understand them is what makes a great teacher.
Thanks, Sunny, for all that you do for kids of all abilities! Keep spreading the word of inclusion. And to all you other advocates out there, too– keep it up! We appreciate all that you do!
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.