By Avery Pak ’20
WHS’s Project Unify is hosting its End the R-Word Campaign at the Carpenter Family Theatre on Mar. 7 during lunch.
Special Olympics Programs implemented Project Unify across the U.S. in order to bring together students with and without intellectual disabilities on school campuses.
Project Unify at WHS has recently adopted national campaign Spread the Word to End the Word (known as End the R-Word at WHS) in order to promote the end of the word, “retard,” which is often used in an offensive and hurtful manner.
“This campaign is meant to show people the other side of the word,” said WHS Project Unify president Niki Golchini ‘20. “Many just use the word because they hear others using it, but they do not understand what the word means to those with intellectual or physical disabilities.”
The campaign existed two years ago at WHS, but was reintroduced this year.
“I think our students have already been exposed to this once, so hopefully they are a little bit more mature and they understand how the usage of this word impacts their fellow students,” said WHS Project Unify advisor Eric Levy.
After contacting the Special Olympics Liaison, ordering stickers and crafting together a video demonstrating what End the R-Word strives to achieve, Golchini and WHS Project Unify vice president Jamie Weiler ‘19 officially set the campaign date for Mar. 7.
On Mar. 7, students can expect to watch a video about the power of the r-word, participate in signing a pledge poster and receive stickers and bracelets supporting the campaign.
Sparkles cheer will be performing in order to show “how we can be more inclusive of those with disabilities in school activities,” according to Golchini.
WHS alumna Sheima Dehimi will be a guest speaker at the event. Dehimi spoke during the last campaign two years ago and has personal experience overcoming a disability.
At the end of lunch, another video will be played, highlighting the Lifeskills and Education for Students with Autism and other Pervasive Behavioral Challenges, or LEAP, students on WHS campus and their opinions and experiences with the r-word.
“The structural dynamic of Westlake absolutely isolates LEAP students from the general student population,” said Golchini. “This causes WHS students to be unaware and ignorant about those with disabilities, thus, making it less likely for them to be sensitive about what they might say that could potentially hurt those with disabilities. I hope that this campaign will allow WHS students to see what they aren’t able to see everyday: how amazing these kids are.”
The leaders of Project Unify have high hopes for the impact and future of End the R-Word.
“I just really want to see a difference in the way kids with intellectual and learning disabilities are treated,” said Weiler. “Coming from someone who has a brother with Down syndrome … I hope to achieve a massive difference in our school and overall our community because the only way we can start to see a difference is if we start making a difference of our own and spreading awareness.”