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Midvale Journal

Students find belonging and acceptance through Hillcrest inclusion week

May 07, 2024 04:40PM ● By Julie Slama

During inclusion week, Hillcrest High students and faculty wrote messages of being inclusive on a paper chain to hang in the school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

What do crazy socks, board games, a paper chain and basketball have

in common?

In late February, they were all part of Hillcrest High’s inclusion week.

“Everyone needs a place to belong,” said Hillcrest special education teacher Becca Remy, who helped students coordinate the inclusion week. “I want to create an atmosphere where people feel welcome and they’re able to be themselves. They don’t have to feel or have to act a certain way to fit in; everyone is welcome and everyone fits in.”

On each day, students united by dressing up. One day it was wearing pajamas to school. On another, it was wearing crazy socks. Graphic T-shirts and Husky gear rounded out the four-day school week.

Then, during their advisory period, students would join Remy’s class to watch movie shorts, play board games, make bracelets or just take crayons and colored pencils to coloring pages. They also practiced with the school’s unified basketball team, where special education students play on a team together on the court with partner athletes. Hillcrest’s unified basketball teams were set to compete in the state championships March 8.

“There’s something magical about my students; they see people through a lens that is inclusive, and they don’t judge people. They see people for who they are, and they love them without boundaries,” she said. “They want to make friends and are accepting of everyone.”

One of the inclusion week projects was inviting the student body to help make a paper chain that Remy plans to put up at school. On each link, a student wrote how they could include others—“be kind to each other,” “invite them to eat lunch with me,” “join in activities together.”

“It shows we’re all connected; we’re unified. We’re making ways to include everyone; we’re making a big change,” she said. 

Remy already is seeing the change within the student body the past three years the school has been holding inclusion week. It goes beyond her students and their peers announcing activities together on the daily announcements.

“I feel being around people who are accepting, you are more inclined to be yourself. That allows students to feel more at ease. I’ve had students tell me my kids are on the little quirky side so they feel they can come in, relax and be themselves. They don’t have to act a certain way to feel accepted,” she said, adding that she welcomes students who have a positive attitude and an open heart to be peer tutors to her students. “My favorite thing is when the kids make their tutors laugh and brighten their day. I love seeing that they love it. It just makes me smile.” λ