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Community: Inclusion benefits all at school
I have been proudly associated with the graduating class of 2004 of Oak Harbor High School for 17 years because of my son, Richard. Through him I have come to know many fine young men and women of the class. One of these is Eric Ludemann. Eric has Down syndrom (or something similar. I never asked.)
Eric's parents worked very hard to include Eric in the usual activities for a boy of his age. We came to know Eric when he and his brother were on my son's soccer team. Eric gave it his all. It was a fun season with great kids and a fun coach. I think we took first in the league that year.
At graduation, Eric walked to receive his diploma. As he started down from the dais his classmates broke into an ovation that continued til Eric returned to his seat. Eric walked six inches taller. Many who knew Eric broke into tears.
I spoke to my son's best friend afterwards. I told him I thought this was a wonderful thing they did for Eric. His face lit up as he said, "Yeah, Eric's cool. We used to invite him to sit with us for lunch."
Inclusion was first proposed as a benefit for those often excluded from our society. We were told that these students would benefit from exposure to "normal" kids. The graduating class of 2004 showed that inclusion is a benefit to them all.
Thank you, class of 2004.
Rita Dybdahl Cline