On a clear, blue-sky May afternoon, sometimes the weather just begs for a picnic. And that’s just what happened when the students of North Carroll Community School hosted clients of The Arc of Carroll County Inc. near the end of this school year.
The two groups have a history together that stretches back several years. Usually, about once a month, students in the seventh and eighth grades from North Carroll Community School, or NCCS, travel to The Arc with their teachers. Students and clients hang out together and do activities from adaptive physical education to arts and crafts.
Scot Lynn, NCCS co-founder and administrator, said it’s important to teach students that “there are all types of people in the world ... and all of these people add value to our world.”
The Arc is a nonprofit devoted to supporting people — both adults and children — with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The picnic and celebration on Thursday, May 16, was special for the students because it was the first time they got to host their friends from The Arc instead of visiting them. NCCS moved into a new facility in the fall of 2017.
Kori Brethauer, an NCCS seventh-grader, said it was exciting that the clients of The Arc would “get to interact with us in our environment.”
But the students said they also enjoy the trips off campus.
“It’s an opportunity to go into the real world,” said her classmate, Jacey Duncan.
As Lynn fired up the grill to make hot dogs, the students made sure their guests had plenty of drinks and sides — pasta salad, chips, pretzels. Lynn was proud to see them thinking about other people first before serving themselves.
Hannah, an Arc client, ate lunch with a few of the seventh-graders she had met during their visits. One of the most memorable activities the NCCS group brings is a multicolored parachute.
“It’s really huge,” she said.
Seventh-grader Jake Riley said the parachute is also one of his favorite activities, but he also liked to “just spend some time with the clients.”
Arc client Tim said he enjoys sports such as softball and basketball. Having the students visit is a good thing, he said.
After lunch, students and clients alike migrated to the playground, where there was a large slide set into the hill. Later they started a friendly game of kickball.
Visiting The Arc of Carroll County is not the only opportunity students have to break out of their bubble of school-age peers. They also visit the West End Place Medical Adult Day Care at its location in Westminster.
NCCS Administrator Alex Will said that one of their goals for the students is to “ allow them the opportunity to be comfortable being uncomfortable” talking to and enjoying time with people who don’t look and act exactly like them.
Over the years, Lynn said that former students have come back to tell him that hanging out with The Arc clients has been one of the most memorable parts of middle school for them.
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After the picnic Thursday, he wrote in an email, “Today, it was somewhat like a test for our students to see if they could indeed serve others and think of others before themselves. From all of the various interactions I observed between NCCS Students and our ARC Friends...we feel certain our students passed.”