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Tenth Graders Participate in the Biography Project

Service Learning: Tenth Graders Collaborate with Easter Seals and Ringling College
Every year, tenth graders at ODA participate in the Biography Project—a long-term collaborative assignment that brings ODA students together with a special needs partner from Easter Seals of Southwest Florida. The students and their partners spend time together during visits that take place over several months, asking each other questions and getting to know one another. They talk about typical teenage interests; music, favorite foods, friends and pets, likes and dislikes, and often share thoughts about their hopes and dreams. ODA students then create visual art projects about their partner, this year in collaboration with artists from Ringling College of Art and Design. The projects are put on display in the Student Center on the Uihlein Campus and then brought to Easter Seals of Southwest Florida to be displayed during the annual Shining Through Community Partnerships Luncheon.
 
It may be hard to measure the full impact of this special program, but it is apparent that both the ODA students and their Easter Seals partners learn from one another. Some of the ODA students have kept in touch with their partners and continued relationships with them after the program ended. “The interactions students have with their Easter Seals partners help normalize their view of people with disabilities. The students become more comfortable with people they may have previously perceived as being very different from themselves,” says Director of Collaborative Learning and Educational Outreach, Mrs. Camela Giraud. “Students who have a family member with physical or mental challenges have found that this program helps them open a dialogue with their peers. These students say that this program gives classmates an understanding of what their lives at home can be like.”
 
After their third visit, Brian Lutton ‘20 remarked, “I got to know Jason well; I am excited to see him become successful later in his life. It has been eye-opening to go to the school, to see what the Easter Seals students do each day, how they learn, how they live, and ultimately, how they prepare to be successful in the world.” 
 
Giraud attended training for The Biography Project in 1998. Reflecting on her initial reaction to the program she notes, “I knew that when I first got involved in the Biography Project it would be something that I would continue to do regardless of where I was working. Every year I learn something new and am always impressed with 
the way our students interact with
their partners.”
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