Now that I’ve been writing and editing for the Inclusion Potluck for a few months now, I guess it’s about time (or, really, past time…) that I tell you a bit about myself! My name is Elise Hopkins, I work as KIT’s Blog Writer/Editor, and I am most definitely an Inclusionista, as we like to say at KIT. I have actually been an Inclusionista since age 12…
When I was in sixth grade, I starred in my middle school’s production of Tom Sawyer as Becky Thatcher. I absolutely loved being on the stage. It was such a rush. One of my favorite parts of the production was getting my hair and makeup done before the show; it made me feel like a superstar. The young woman who did my makeup turned out to be seventeen-year-old Micaela Connery, founder of Unified Theater, Inc. As she told me about her experience with Unified Theater, a program that provides theater for everyone, with no auditions or competition, I was inspired. knew I was going to love it. Unified Theater allows kids to create and facilitate their own inclusive programs using the arts. I wanted to be able to share my love of performance with students who had never had the opportunity to shine on stage.
I ended up starting my middle school’s first Unified Theater program, serving as its Student Director. Through this position, I began developing my leadership skills from a very young age. The best skill I learned from Unified Theater was the ability to see the good in all people. Every single person has a talent that they can share. You just have to be willing to look and listen for it. The lack of competition in Unified Theater allowed us all to blossom, seeing each other for our abilities instead of disabilities.
Throughout high school and college, I continued my work with Unified Theater, carrying with me the lessons I learned from inclusion. I now work as a special education teacher in Chicago, and I am a huge advocate for inclusive settings for my students whenever and wherever possible. As a product of inclusion, I know its power. We need to teach our kids to be tolerant and welcoming, and to see the best in everyone they meet. By shining the spotlight on ability, we raise people’s awareness of the talents and contributions that all people can make. Instead of searching for flaws, we find possibilities. And who doesn’t want their kids to be people who look for good in the world?
–Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Writer and Editor
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.