By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – “Music is power,” noted Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) student Camron Nodoushani on Jan. 22 at an afterschool concert performed by the school’s Inclusion Choir.
Camron and Matthew Richardson were partners in a joint public relations project called Operation Inclusion through their school’s DECA club that revolved around inclusion in their school. This concert was the conclusion of the project that began at the beginning of the school year last September.
DECA prepares high school and college students academically with a focus on community involvement, professional responsibility and leadership.
“I’m taking a DECA-related class called Business Research and the goal of the class is to pick a category and pursue a topic or idea, so my category is public relations, where we hold a public relations campaign to help raise awareness,” Matthew explained.
Through brainstorming and his involvement with the school’s Best Buddies program, Matthew was inspired to use that as a platform for their project – raising awareness of the need for inclusion of people with intellectual developmental disabilities.
“Since Matt joined Best Buddies, he told me about the negative stigma and stereotypes surrounding people with intellectual disabilities,” Camron said, thinking it was a good subject for their project.
“Essentially it’s just a way to help them make friends and get involved in the school,” Matt remarked. “We partnered with the Best Buddies Faculty Advisor Kevin Haussmann to be our sponsor and he has helped guide us and get us where we wanted to go.”
“Matt and Camron came to me in September to advise them on making connections and conceiving of a public relations project to promote our school’s diverse and talented students,” noted Haussmann, who is also the Unified Track coach. “In particular they sought to find a way to promote awareness of students with different abilities. Some are members of our Best Buddies chapter, some sing in our Unified Choir, and other’s play on our school’s Unified Basketball or Unified Track and Field teams.
“Both Matt and Camron exhibited an impressive commitment, meeting weekly with me to give updates and ask for input. Besides planning and executing a marketing campaign for the Business Research class, they each developed a deep passion for making our school more inclusive and recognizing those students who are often not as well connected to their peers,” he said.
Other events that Camron and Matthew organized as part of their campaign included an inclusion in the workplace event, a Skype conference call with Best Buddies jobs program participant Dudley Williams, who works in Boston at John Hancock. They also held a Unified Track information session at which existing team members shared with potential team members the mission and opportunities that exist with unified sports at ARHS.
When asked how successful Operation Inclusion had been, Camron said that they have had a pretty good turnout for all of their events, so he thinks they have been successful.
“We are singing for the joy,” remarked Lori Diamond, choir director of the Inclusion Choir. “They are helping with general awareness; we are still a newer club and a lot of folks are surprised when they hear about us… We are very grateful to have this opportunity.”