Inclusion Award Contest raises awareness; students recognized

How has the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) not yet been fully realized for people with developmental disabilities? If the ADA was fully implemented, how might the world look differently for people with developmental disabilities? These are questions students were asked to address in an essay, and there were over 80 entries in the Inclusion Awards Contest designed to increase awareness about recognizing everyone’s gifts.

Bill Beardsley with First Place winner Molly Silsby in the Hall of Flags

The Maine Department of Education’s leader Bill Beardsley recognized the three winning essayists at the Hall of Flags saying, “We recognize this is not a declaration of victory, but rather a call to arms. We still have much work to do…we are proud to be part of the team.”

Nancy Cronin of the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council says the essays served multiple purposes. One was to raise awareness of how all people deserve to be recognized and included for their gifts to communities, and the essay gave students the opportunity to exemplify “the proficiency in the college and career readiness writing standards while envisioning a better world for all community members.”

The top 14 essays will be published in a book including a poem written by a Gorham High School student, Brandon Whitney. The first place essay winner was Molly Silsby of Cony High School. Second place went to John Saffian of Greely High School, and third place to Jaime Coull of Cony High School.