Three Days of KIT
By Shalico Leaverton, Education Director, San Diego Junior Theatre
Matt Sheelen, San Diego Junior Theatre’s Education Program Director, and I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Kids Included Together International Conference on Inclusion, March 13-15, 2013. A big thank you goes to the Rising Arts Leaders for their grant award which helped to underwrite our conference registration.
Those three days were filled with numerous highlights and I was left feeling inspired, touched and professionally invigorated.
Day One: All Kids Can Succeed
This motivating Pre-Conference workshop was led by Jed Baker, Ph.D. Dr. Baker’s presentation was witty, anecdotal, and most importantly, so user friendly that any teacher, parent, student aide, etc could walk out of that room with a new bag of tricks to help any child find success within a program. The theme of his workshop was Hope. If a child has hope that they will succeed, than their chances for individual success grows exponentially. As Art Educators, we need to determine how to foster this hope for all of the students in our programs.
Day Two: Keynote speaker, Matt Roloff and Break-Out Sessions
The second day of the conference started with a moving keynote address by Matt Roloff, star of Little People, Big World. Matt shared his story of the obstacles he’s face in his life. The recurring theme in his speech was Resilience. Kids need to learn how to be resilient and he encouraged us as parents and educators to find the perfect amount of advocacy and encouragement without overdoing it. We need to allow ourselves to be in the space where we’re not sure if we should jump in and help a child or let them struggle to do it on their own. He also stated that inclusion is an action and not just a thought and it applies to all kids/people that are excluded in anyway.
The rest of the day was spent in break-out sessions. I attended two workshops: The Hidden Curriculum, led by Stephen Hinkle and Understanding Children/Youth with Differing Needs. Matt attended Music Strategies to Promote Inclusion, Yoga Stories and Games for the Classroom, and You’re an Advocate-Now What?.
Day Three: Breakout Sessions and KIT Cause for Celebration Luncheon.
Day Three continued with several breakout sessions. Matt attended Reading is a Superpower and I attended Taking Care of You and Inclusive Movement Activities. These breakout sessions continued to give us hands-on solutions for our programming at Junior Theatre.
The Cause for Celebration Luncheon included a moving speech by Bhava Ram, who shared his personal story of overcoming a spinal cord injury as well as a touching performance by The Sparkle Effect inclusive cheer squad from Los Angeles.
Overall, the conference served to reconnect San Diego Junior Theatre with KIT, with whom we are an alumni affiliate. I had the opportunity to discuss our past involvement with Tori Dunlap, the inspiring CEO of KIT, who helped guide the way for our continued, future partnership with KIT. She put us in touch with Viviana H. Saint Louis, Affiliate Coordinator, with whom we scheduled a follow up meeting with. I am happy to say that we are on target for continuing our teaching and aide staff training in order to better serve students of all abilities at San Diego Junior Theatre. Thank you RAL and the San Diego Foundation!