By Joseph Alonso
With the first semester coming to a close, there are so many events, clubs, and people to recognize who have made a real difference in our community. More specifically, Columbus’ LINK (Learning about Inclusion and Nurturing with Kindness) Club has done excellent and inspiring work around our community which must be recognized. The club has been extremely successful under the leadership of Mrs. Gonzalez-Rojas, Mrs. Martinez, and the club’s President Junior John-Barry Bertematti.
The club’s mission is to create awareness, respect, and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The club achieves this goal by volunteering with students who have special needs in the community. Simply put, the LINK club is an advocate for inclusion.
The club was originally known as the “best-buddies” club and operated under an international organization. The club changed its name to LINK because the best-buddies organization had certain requirements (such as eating with your buddy once a week) that Columbus had trouble meeting as it lacked its own special needs program. This year, the club made the shift into the LINK club and put a spin on the best-buddies idea to make it uniquely Columbus.
The club has been able to partner with Great Heights Academy, which is a K-12 program for individuals with special needs. The academy’s mission is “To provide a creative yet, challenging learning environment that encourages high expectations for the success of our children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Over the past several months, the club has hosted events in which individuals with disabilities were able to partake in an amazing experience catered by Columbus students. According to Mrs. Gonzalez-Rojas, the club’s most recent event was a softball and football skill clinic in order to prepare Great Heights Academy students for their Special Olympics, which was followed by a Friendsgiving lunch.
The event turned out to be a major success as students were able to share an intimate and sensory-sensitive moment with members of the LINK club. One of the clubs members, Jake Brossett, had this to say about the event:
“The Friendsgiving was an amazing experience. I loved meeting all the kids and getting to know them and their interests. I think the event was super successful because nobody looked disappointed or sad to be there and everyone had the biggest smile on their face the whole time. I would definitely recommend this [to Columbus students] because it is an eye opening experience.”
The club’s success isn’t going anywhere as they plan to host their next event on Saturday, December 10th as a special Christmas experience for those with special needs. Led by Junior John-Barry Bertematti, the club will be hosting their first-annual “Elf-stravaganza.” This is an event that gives children with special needs the opportunity to avoid the loud and crowded mall to meet Santa. With this, families of children with special needs can come to our campus for a more intimate and sensory-sensitive experience. Kids can make an ornament, decorate a cookie, take a picture with Santa, etc. The club says they will be starting small this year but hope to make it an annual tradition.
Overall, the club plans to continue its success and according to Mrs. Gonzalez-Rojas, there are big things the club has planned for the future. The Columbus community is excited to see what is in store for the club in the near future and I am confident that the club will be able to effect the lives of more people around our community for long time to come.