Embracing the differences: Sra. Harmon’s 5th period Spanish class promotes inclusivity through Valentine’s day gram event for special needs students


Isabel Sim

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one is seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered” – Wes Angelozzi

Isabel Sim, Features Editor

Chatter fills the room as students write out messages on pink hearts that each have a person’s name on them. They peer into their notebooks, looking for examples of reflexive verbs and the verbs “ser” and “estar,” all the while a table at the back assembles goodie bags. The messages and the bags, however, are not for them but for the students of the special needs class.

The Friday before Valentine’s Day weekend, students of Sra. Jane Harmon’s 5th period Spanish class assembled Valentine’s Day grams for the students of the special needs class in the D quad in order to make them feel welcomed and appreciated at Ayala. The messages were bilingual, with one side written in Spanish and the other written in English. 

For the students of Sra. Harmon’s Spanish class, the act of making and giving the goodie bags was a way of showing kindness and respect to the special needs students, whom they see as overlooked for their talents and personalities. Many students expressed that the Ayala community views students with disabilities and how by giving the grams, they were potentially making their day brighter. They stated that many students are afraid of approaching special needs students due to stigma surrounding disability and that by passing out Valentine’s day messages to them, they were given a chance to interact with these students through an act of kindness.

Sophomore Jessica Surjadi said that interacting with the special needs students made her realize the importance of appreciating the little things in life.

“The girl that I gave my heart to was so happy and sweet, and she even gave me her own drawing that she made,” Surjadi said. “It made me so happy when she gave me her little drawing, and I thought that I should try to do more things for other people and be happy for the things that other people do for me just like [the special needs student] did.”

The recognition and increasing awareness for the special needs student population does not stop here, however. While a prom for the special education students is held each year by the Renaissance class, this year, it is being held by FindKind Club. After the club’s advisor Christina Hofstetter reached out to the club asking if they would be able to throw the prom through the club, FindKind took on the challenge to implement inclusivity at Ayala.

Vice President of FindKind Club Soraya Corydon (11) said, “We believe that it is important for all students to have amazing high school experiences, like prom, and it would be horrible for certain students to have to miss out on such an exciting event.”