Warren students learn through advocacy show

Middle school students in Warren County had a unique experience in character education in the form of musical performances of the Same Sky Project on Wednesday.

Eighth graders from both high schools were bused in to join sixth and seventh graders at two public afternoon assemblies in which the nonprofit A Place To Be put on its 40-minute show with a Q&A session afterward.

This is the fifth year that the musical, which showcases performers who represent a wide spectrum of disabilities and life challenges, has toured around the area. A Place To Be states on its website that more than 20,000 students have seen Same Sky since 2010.

The school district collaborated funding for the performance with The Arc of Warren County, a nonprofit branch that serves area individuals with disabilities.

Michael Hirsch, Warren schools’ director of special services, said the program helps clear up misconceptions and gives students a fresh and personal perspective.

“They look behind the labels; they do a variety of musicals with students with disabilities … to help support the culture of inclusiveness and dispel any myths that might still exist – even though it’s 2015 – about people with disabilities,” he said.

Music therapist and Arc board member Allyson Gillispie knew Same Sky would be a good fit for Warren schoolchildren, having worked with special needs children in the county through her business. She said students at the assemblies were involved and interested in the performance, and some even came to the stage to talk one on one with the performers.

“It went better than I ever could have imagined,” she said. “The kids seemed really receptive to it.”

Hirsch said Same Sky’s messages mirror those emphasized by the schools.

“The goal of the project and the goal of Warren County Public Schools is to help teach people to see beyond the diagnosis, beyond the label and see into the human being,” he said.

Learn more about the Same Sky Project at A Place To Be’s website, http://www.aplacetobeva.org/.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com