Photo by Sarah Fulton, staff photographer
This week, FYS 038: Exploring the Portrayal of Mental Illness and Intellectual Disabilities in the Media, helped set up a carnival for students at Ruby Van Meter High School for its homecoming week. Ruby Van Meter School is a school for special needs children ages 12-21.
This class, taught by Annie Fornoff, created and planned the carnival as part of homecoming week for the students at Ruby Van Meter. The carnival included a photo booth where the students got to dress up and take pictures with each other, and the students also interacted with first-year students from Drake University.
“The best part was seeing how happy they were and how much fun they had. They would indulge in joy from every activity and dance their hearts out when a song they liked came on,” said first-year Kayla Bell.
Their class also volunteers every other week at the Ruby Van Meter High School, and the experience has impacted the way the students view students with special needs.
“This experience truly opened my eyes to the stigma that I have lived around all my life,” Bell said. “I can now interact with these people the way I would with anyone else I know because I can look beyond their illness and see them as another person like myself.”
However, Bell doesn’t think everyone views people with special needs the same way.
“I am passionate about disrespect and inequality, and people with mental illnesses are often treated negatively because people cannot look beyond their disabilities,” Bell said.
The first-year seminar group continues to work with these students and volunteer at their classes while noticing the little things that help make their time worthwhile.
“There is one girl that is in the transition class that’s for 18-21 year olds that I normally help out. But she’s just very energetic and fun-loving, and she’s fun to be around, and she just brightens up your day with her outlook on life,” said first-year Sarah Fulton.
This experience has impacted these students’ lives for the better.
“It’s a really unique, eye-opening experience for college students. I don’t think people get the chance to study about people with disabilities and get a hands-on experience with them,” Fulton said.