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School embracing diversity

2018 Greytown School Black Hats (left to right) Samantha Plimmer, Alexander Walsh, Scarlett Wilton and Nilah Savage. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

ELISA VORSTER

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Greytown School’s  student leaders are chosen for their high standards and positive contribution to school life, which was why it was proud to name a student with a learning disability as being amongst them.

Alexander Walsh, 12, was excited to be named yesterday as one of the 12 students who will have the honour of leading their peers in 2018 as a Year 8 school leader, known as a Black Hat.

Even though Alex has Down Syndrome, he had done more than his fair share to contribute to school life and hadn’t let anything hold him back.

Black Hats are chosen by the teachers after students submit a written application explaining the skills they can bring to the role, which includes the students acting as peer mediators in the playground.

The selection criteria was part of the school’s SHARP behavioural scheme, which stands for be Safe, be Honest, Achieve, show Respect and have Pride.

Alex’s mother, Heather Walsh, said being a Black Hat was something he had always wanted to do and had overcome a lot of obstacles to achieve his goal.

“He is very social but he has worked really hard on his communication.”

She said as a nurse, she knew learning things would be a lot harder for Alex, but had been very encouraged by all the activities he was involved in, ranging from netball and mini-ball to playing guitar in the school band.

“He made me realise kids with disabilities can really do anything.”

She said the school had been fantastic in its support of Alex and was over the moon the teachers chose him to be a school leader.

“I have really high praise for how the school has managed him – I think other schools should step up” Mrs Walsh said.

Mrs Walsh helped Alex with his application and said being a Black Hat would be an opportunity for him to give back to the community some of the renewed hope she felt when she saw other people with Down Syndrome achieving in extraordinary ways.

“I want Alex to be a beacon of hope for other parents as well as disabled children.”

Among the other Black Hats named yesterday were Alex’s close friends and support group, Scarlett Wilton, Samantha Plimmer and Nilah Savage, who he affectionately named ‘Garlett’, ‘Fafa’ and ‘Lala.

They had been with him throughout his schooling after Scarlett created an ongoing buddy system for him.

The three friends were extremely excited Alex had been chosen. His best quality was his caring and supportive nature.

“He cares about people and always comforts them” said Nilah.

Alex said the thing he most looked forward to about being a Black Hat was “helping little boys and girls”.

 

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