Algonquin Inclusive DECA hits the runway

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Algonquin Inclusive DECA hits the runway
Shane Curran strikes a pose as he makes his way down the runway during the Inclusive DECA fashion show. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

NORTHBOROUGH – Throughout the day, the Algonquin Regional High School cafeteria operated as usual – over 1,000 students entered and exited the room during lunch period. However, by the afternoon, students had completely transformed the space. What was once a collection of tables and chairs became an elaborately decorated fashion runaway, and the show was about to begin.  

On March 30, Algonquin’s Inclusive Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) program held a fashion show that showcased several unique outfits and the school’s ability to meaningfully include those with different abilities. 

According to a press release given to the Community Advocate, “Inclusive DECA is a business club for students with and without intellectual disabilities. Students learn the basics of business processes such as interview skills, marketing, inventory control, working in groups, money management, and so much more with hands-on activities to create products and plan events.”

Families, friends, and community members cheered as club members made their way down the runway. Models were met with thunderous applause and a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs.” Each model chose their own outfits for the show, displaying a broad range of personal styles. 

“It was great,” Algonquin student and event emcee Jessica Valentine said. “[The atmosphere] was very positive and it was a lot of fun. Everyone got to see the amazing models.”

The fashion show was the result of months of planning by students in the Inclusive DECA program and club advisor Zybsia Giegucz.

“Every year we do something different [and] we have a different theme we do,” Giegucz said. “This year, we decided to do something fun… the kids saw that there are a lot of kids with different abilities that are actual fashion models, so they thought it would be a fun idea to do it.” 

While Giegucz clearly had a large role in coordinating and running the event, she continually attributed the success of the event to the group. 

“They picked out all their outfits… they coordinated… and they did the backdrop. They put the whole thing together… we were here after school decorating the place. There are some kids from Inclusive DECA doing concessions because they didn’t want to model. Everyone had a part in it… whether it was doing the flyers [or] advertising… every kid did something,” she said.

At the end of the event, club members shared a group hug before finding their families and friends in the audience. Many people took pictures on the runway, against the backdrop, and all around the cafeteria filled with streamers, glitz, and glamour. Before long, winners of the raffle were announced.

Inclusion was the word of the night. 

“We feel that every person, no matter what your ability or disability, you have something to offer,” Giegucz said. “We pull out what the kids can do, and we all work together and try to build each other up. Everyone had something they can do, and we find what the student can do, and we work on it.”

Catherine Campbell, one of the event’s models, clearly had a great time.

“It was really fun,” she told the Community Advocate.

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