"Fans in the Stands" help all students shine

HOLT, Mich. (WILX) -- Inclusion and friendship in the spotlight at Washington Woods Middle School in Holt. News 10 Today anchor Lora Painter talks with a group of students of different learning abilities coming together to help each other shine.

The 5th annual "Fans in the Stands" rally is a special school-wide pep rally to help raise awareness of kids with different learning abilities. Here, student athletes are getting ready to compete in a Special Olympics bowling tournament. All year long both general education and special education students have been partnering up to help each other learn and build friendships. Educators said they have seen a big difference at their school ever since the program started five years ago.

Walt Sutterlin, principal at Washington Woods Middle School, said, "We've seen a decline in bullying related incidents by two-thirds. I think inclusion speaks for itself and that's what adults in community need to see."

One of the participating 6th grade students, Travis Tompkins said, "I've changed a lot because my buddy is non-verbal. And it kind of just shows me how people have to live their lives and how much they need help compared to us."

Another studetent, Lilly Stiffler, a 6th grader, said, "My favorite thing about it is making new friends."

Blake Kelly, also a 6th grader at Washington Woods, said, "I just really think this program has helped me become a better leader and having more friends than I might not have had if I didn't do the program."