The power of one – the simple word that can make a lifetime of difference
High school students say ‘Hi’ to foster social inclusion and overcome the stigma of disability
It’s a tiny, two letter word which is the start of many a casual conversation. And it is the word on the lips of hundreds of high school students throughout Sydney and regional NSW as they take their own steps towards breaking down barriers and including peers with a disability.
18 high schools are participating in the inaugural ‘Say Hi’ campaign to celebrate Social Inclusion week which begins 25th November. The concept is simple – ‘say hi’ to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to at school. The ice is broken, and social inclusion is underway.
Natalie Bishop, who is coordinating the ‘Say Hi’ campaign as part of Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Social Inc. program, says the simple yet effective idea came from the students themselves.
‘Social Inc. has been co-created with students and teachers from high schools around Sydney and regional areas of NSW’, Natalie said. ‘As part of this program, we asked more than 70 students with and without disability what they could do each day to make their schools more inclusive.
‘The responses were overwhelming, with the vast majority saying they could simply make an effort to say hi to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to. And so the ‘Say Hi’ campaign was born’, she said.
The ‘Say Hi’ campaign is a fun way of addressing a serious issue. Disabled Australian adolescents and young adults are more likely to experience social exclusion than their non-disabled peers, leading to poor outcomes such as lower educational achievement and unemployment in adulthood. (Left Behind:2013, Policy Bulletin 1, February 2013, University of Sydney)
Killarney Heights High School student Nicole Lu, who has cerebral palsy, says a simple smile and a quick ‘hi’ are all it takes to make someone else’s day.
‘My cerebral palsy means that other students who don’t know me can be apprehensive about talking to me’, Nicole said. ‘I sometimes feel a bit isolated particularly if my usual group of friends are not around.
‘For many students with a disability, these feelings of isolation can be coupled with bullying, teasing and being excluded from social activities.
‘But if students have the confidence to go out on a limb, take the initiative, and say hi and smile at someone as they walk past, then that person will feel more connected and valued as part of the school community. It is a small step, but one which has the potential to change someone’s life’, she said.
High schools have organised a range of activities as part of the ‘Say Hi’ campaign, including Amazing Race-style paired activities, BBQs, chalk artworks, drumming workshops, magic shows and more.
Each school has been given bright yellow Social Inc. ‘Say Hi’ wristbands and students have been proactive in spreading the word about the ‘Say Hi’ campaign via social media.
‘This campaign is being driven by the students themselves as they understand the vital role they can play in promoting a more inclusive society, regardless of their ability or disability’, Natalie said.
The 18 schools involved in ‘Say Hi’ are:
- Sydney Secondary College – Balmain Campus
- Sydney Secondary College – Leichhardt Campus
- Marrickville High School,
- Northern Beaches Secondary College – Cromer Campus
- Picnic Point High School
- PLC Croydon
- Rosebay Secondary College
- St Ignatius Riverview
- Killarney Heights High School
- Pennant Hills High School
- JJ Cahill Memorial High School, Mascot
- Fairvale High School
- Ingleburn High School
- Greystanes High School
- Kanahooka High School
- Georges River College Oatley Senior Campus
- Nepean Creative & Performing Arts High School
- Sir Joseph Banks High School
Jennifer Durante – Cerebral Palsy Alliance Media Manager – (02) 9975 8758 / 0419 802 602
Released on 21 Nov 2013