Century High School Best Buddies/KEEN USA

Individuals with disabilities are often subject to discrimination, so let us unite strength and celebrate dis ABILITY to initiate change!

Photo of Monica Tavassoli
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Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

March 9th, 2001

Where are you located:

Santa Ana (92705)

Date Started

Founding Date: 8/22/17

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

https://drive.google.com/file/d/10aHb-pIF4U38JryPzFH9DkdWxHSanuP0/view

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Our society can often times marginalize individuals based on their external appearances without appreciating who they are as a whole. This is especially true for individuals who have a visible disability or handicap. It is not the wheelchair nor the braille letters that define the individual but rather the limits that society imposes on them. My goal is to help resolve discrimination against individuals with disabilities to ensure equality.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I will approach the issue of discrimination against individuals with disabilities through community education and goal-specific workshops to create a level playing field and better integrate disabled individuals into every-day society. I plan on developing a support network for individuals with disabilities in my immediate community. The first aspect of this plan is to host a series of workshops where members can enhance their skill set, and learn about various work and educational opportunities available to them; examples include health resources, educational pathways, as well as job openings. As part of these workshops, I would also like to bring inspirational speakers with disabilities who can reflect on their own journeys to success and encourage others to set after their goals. This support network will be open to all individuals with disabilities and there will be a series of age-specific activities hosted that will focus on their specific needs.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

This example will analyze Steve's involvement with the program: Steve is one of my mentees and is starting his senior year of high school. He is very excited for what the future year holds for him but he doesn't know about how he can prepare for his future aside from the minimal amount of educational instruction he receives during class. As part of the program, a handful of mentors, including myself, will help Steve plan a post-high school educational plan. As Steve's mentor, I will regularly meet with him to ensure that he completes his high-school courses, meets with the DSPS office at the local community college, and takes an entrance exam for the placement of his classes. In doing so, Steve can successfully prepare for the next step in his educational journey and be better prepared to enter a career after his studies.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

This program will be open to individuals with disabilities of all ages and will allow for exposure to opportunities from a young age to help prepare the members for real-world interactions. The program will be a large network that is home to various resources that individuals can reach out to as desired. The program focuses on the socio-economically disadvantaged community in Santa Ana, which is home to approximately 25,000 disabled individuals under the age of 65. With this program, we will initiate change in the community by inspiring people to achieve great feats and overcome barriers.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In less than nine months, this support network, which was established at Century High School by the name of Best Buddies/ KEEN USA, has involved over 500 community members at and outside of school, in an effort to develop an inclusive environment for all students with disabilities. The idea for this project stemmed from my own challenges with epilepsy, a neurologic condition that causes me to have sudden and uncontrolled seizure. My own struggles made me realize that the problem of social isolation was not unique to me and that many of my peers with disabilities felt the same way. By planning excursions that focused on interactions with others in our community, I've been able to foster a sense of security and instill confidence in those involved in the program. In doing so, I've created a network where people which disabilities have access to more resources and have a sense of belonging.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

This upcoming school year my group and I are planning on partnering with the special education departments at other local high schools and adult continuation schools in the district to host events where members can congregate and grow their social network. In these events, we will also invite community organizations to host informational fairs for members. Partnering with the local community will allow for direct support in program activities and funds. The goal of this program's support network lies behind the idea of people helping those around them. In this way the network can continue to grow via social media and provide help to disabled individuals on an even larger scale.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

1) Continue to partner with community organizations focused on helping individuals with disabilities.
2) Raise funds to host social events that will foster interaction skills and the growth of a steady support network.
3) Create a social medial platform to publicize this resource to the greater community.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

The presence of a support network for individuals with disabilities relies on the contributions of everyone as a whole, and as we grow in numbers, the greater we are able to contribute to the community. At Century High School, the network of students helping spread the word, friends showing support in our actions, classmates aiding in projects, teachers fostering confidence, and administration hosting school-associated events have unitedly established an all-embracing community for students with disabilities at school. Outside of school, community organizations have given a helping hand by providing resources to support the incorporation of individuals with disabilities into society; by working together as a family, leaders in and outside of school have made this network possible. Our future lies in the hands of young leaders who are making plans to improve certain aspects of our world and as a young leader myself, I find it important to share ideas amongst other leaders so we can unite strength. Leaders can support one another by giving advice and finding ways to work together towards a common goal such that we can grow upon the scale of impact in our local communities and beyond.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian) (7)
  • Middle Eastern or North African (for example: Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian) (11)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community
  • Other

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Beau Menchaca, Century High School Higher Education Coordinator

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Photo of Brittany Corner
Team

You are doing great work, keep it up!