A diverse group of young people from around the state will once again come together this school year though the power of writing, as the Connect-Ability newsletter gears up for its 2009-2010 issue.
Connect-Ability is a NYSUT-sponsored writing project on the theme of disability awareness. The editorial board consists of public school students — some of whom have disabilities, but all of whom write with depth, feeling and a shared sense of investment in this effort.
"I think it's for a really good cause — not that we're writing for ourselves, but that we're writing to help people understand disabilities," said Nina Kaledin, a sophomore at Niskayuna High School, as she participated in a recent planning session for the upcoming issue.
"You feel like you're part of something bigger — like you're going to change the world," said Lauren Ha, 16, and a junior at Albany High.
The Connect-Ability writers may not change the world this year, but they do hope to change perceptions about disabilities.
This year's co-editors are Austin Crittenden, 17, of Red Hook High School, and Valoree Lisi, 19, who graduated in the spring from the Newburgh Free Academy and is now studying culinary arts. The biggest challenge they expect to face is picking the best of so many good submissions.
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said that enthusiasm reflects the encouragement these student writers get at home.
"We have found that this project is also a wonderful partnership with the parents, who encourage this gift of writing in their children," Neira said.
Parents describe the newsletter as a wonderful outlet that gives students the thrill of seeing their work published.
"I'm just excited for her to have something that she's passionate about, and able to do it," said Terrie Schmearer, whose 15-year-old daughter Emily Sanders — a student in the Taconic Hills Central School District — is a member of the Connect-Ability editorial board.
The digital edition of Connect-Ability is posted on the NYSUT Website in the Connect-Ability Newsletter Archive and print copies of the newsletter go to principals, English department chairs and NYSUT local presidents in each district.