A Hatboro-Horsham High School senior took academic and social inclusion to the next level with her graduation project, Every Hatter Truly Matters.
For her project, Kelsey McGuire created a cheerleading squad for special needs students at the school. Her inspiration stemmed from a cheerleading competition her freshman year held at Villanova University where there was a special needs team competing.
“They were blind and deaf,” Kelsey said. “And I just thought that was so cool that they could get them to be involved.”
She is also involved in Hatters Inc., a Hatboro-Horsham group that gives special needs and regular students the chance to meet and do activities together.
“That was the first club that I ever joined,” she said. “The one girl was amazed that I was a cheerleader and I was in the club. So I wanted to do something with that.”
She started planning her project in December 2011 and worked hard to receive approval in July. Kelsey had to set solid goals and find people to help and to teach. Her mentor is her cheerleading coach, Kelly Hogan.
Kelsey and Hogan worked together to decide when the Every Hatter Truly Matters squad would perform and compete. The squad was able to perform at this season’s football games and two pep rallies.
“Now that we started competition, we’re going to look to see when they can do a couple basketball games and they have two competitions here [at Hatboro-Horsham],” Kelsey said.
Ann Ohmott, whose daughter Ashley is a member of the special needs squad, thinks it is a great opportunity for her daughter and other special education students to be involved with their regular education counterparts.
“It’s a great opportunity for the girls and the boys in Mrs. Norris’ class to participate in another sporting event with the high school kids,” Ohmott said. “This way it’s something where they’re included, just like it’s called, inclusion. It’s wonderful, it’s great. They feel good about it, they feel excited about it.”
Ohmott said she hopes that the project continues on after Kelsey and Ashley graduate because of the positive impact it has had on both sets of students.
“I’m a firm believer that, the two of them, when they get together they realize these kids aren’t that different,” she said. “They’re all just still kids, and they all go out and have a good time. “
Kelsey has received a lot of positive feedback since her squad’s performance at the Thanksgiving pep rally last month. She said teachers, administrators and students she doesn’t know approached her to tell her how much they liked her project. The parents, she added, were also very appreciative.
“I didn’t think it’d make such an impact on them but it really has,” she said. “They love it so much. If they see any of us in the hallways they [excitedly] say ‘Hi!’ and go and give us hugs and stuff.”
Kelsey plans to study special education in college and felt her project and her involvement in Hatters Inc. created a solid foundation.
“I just thought it was a really cool idea,” she said. “And it made a huge impact on my life. I enjoy it so much.”