WHS promotes inclusive school culture
A handful of Wilsonville High School students crowded the GameTruck van — a mobile video game rental service that allows students to play different video games — and sat together on the van's long, comfortable black couch. T hey competed against each other, playing games like Mario Kart. Others chose to sit inside at a table, and play board games and draw pictures.
"Anyone in the school can come," said WHS's Wildcat Unified Club adviser Liz Kinder. "(We're) trying to create an atmosphere or an event that's not athletics — something additional kids can feel included in and a part of."
Wildcat Unified Club focuses on fostering a more equal, inclusive school culture and community through activities and events that involve all students.
Though the Unified Sports Program at WHS — which allows athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same athletic team — is the most well-known unified program, the club works to promote non-athletic activities as well.
Last Friday, Kinder and leadership students organized Unified Game Night, which provided two hours of video games, board games, pizza, music and drawing in a sensory-friendly environment for all students.
By having the volume down and a range of games, Kinder said it helped draw in students with sensory processing disorders, like autism.
"This is more geared toward all students," said junior Kendall Taylor, who played board games and drew with a group of students inside. "Everyone connects; everyone gets to participate."
Last year, WHS hosted a Unified Harvest Dance in fall that was sensory-friendly — it wasn't dark, lights weren't flashing and the music was at a lower volume. But the turnout wasn't as successful as Kinder hoped. Though she did have students attend the dance who didn't fit into a typical social dance situation, she said the low turnout could have been improved if she marketed the event better. She said there was poor outreach and students didn't know where to go for the dance.
"We decided to shift this year to making it more of a game night after talking to leadership classes and getting student input on what they would come to and what they would enjoy," Kinder said. "I hope what they get out of it is the feeling of being part of the community and being accepted by others at school."
Sophomore Gage Carter said he thought the game night was successful.
"I think this is a good event because it gives us some time to meet new people. I've already met two new people in here that I didn't know (before)," said Carter, who was helping out with the event last week. "I hope there's future events because I would gladly help out and get it all set up."
Though the game night also lacked a high level of student participation, Kinder said it might have been because of the timing of the event. She acknowledged that with Veteran's Day the following Monday, it was a holiday weekend, but that it was still an important event "because every student counts."