Students share in ideas for international program

Ayman Wahab, left, president and managing director of Special Olympics in the Middle East and North Africa, chats with John Albright, 19, of Toms Brook, while Wahab tours Central High School's L.I.F.E. program Thursday afternoon. Wahab is starting a foundation focused on inclusive education and was touring the school's special education departments. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Students and teachers at Central High School might someday have the chance to share their knowledge with educators in Egypt.

They learned of the possibility Thursday afternoon during a discussion with Ayman Wahab, president and managing director of Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa.

Wahab is starting a foundation focused on promoting inclusive education, health and family communities in Egypt, where he lives. He has been visiting schools throughout the eastern United States for the past two weeks to share his thoughts and receive feedback on the programs that are working here.

His foundation would include the following four elements: schools, vocational training centers, sports/social clubs, and access to hospitals and medical insurance.

“We are missing that in the region,” he said.

Rowdy Hoover, left, special education teacher at Central High School, chats with Ayman Wahab, president and managing director of Special Olympics in the Middle East and North Africa. Rich Cooley/Daily

However, he explained, “It’s a big challenge. It’s not that easy.”

Wahab would like to create sister-school relationships with schools in the United States where teachers and students from across the world can share instructional models, systems and policies that have worked in and out of the classroom. Through partnerships with various schools in the U.S., Wahab said he would like to bring students and teachers in these programs to Egypt for training workshops where ideas can be exchanged.

While visiting Central, Wahab learned about the school’s L.I.F.E program, in which young adults with special needs learn life skills such as cooking, cleaning and computer skills.

Additionally, special education teacher Megan Smith spoke about the school’s inclusive fitness and sports programs, which allow her special education students to receive physical education they may not be exposed to anywhere else.

“I think it’s been neat to see the student involvement,” she said.

Ayman Wahab, left, president and managing director of Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa, takes a practice swing while Jordan Strader, 15, waits for a pitch during a fitness class on Thursday at Central High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

Smith also asked two senior student mentors, Cianne Fields and Nicole Baker, who are part of the school’s fitness mentorship and Champions Together program, to talk about what they have been able to do. These mentorship programs allow students in fitness and sports medicine classes to work with special education students and encourage them to become more physically active.

As mentors, Cianne said, “we serve as leaders, we’re coaches, we’re players, we’re doing the activities with the special education program students to feel like more of a team and not so individual.”

They want to make physical activity seem less like a chore and be something fun that they can look forward to, Nicole said.

“But also we want to promote their social relationships between us, the student mentors, because it is a participating event where everyone is together equally,” Nicole said.

After the presentations, Wahab watched the students in action in the gym and saw how the mentors and special education students worked together on improving their physical fitness. Activities included jump rope, tag, sit-ups, push-ups and baseball. Wahab even grabbed a bat and played alongside the students.

“You are changing the world,” Wahab told the students. “What you are doing here will affect others in some other places in the world.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or