A video created by the Newtown High School Best Buddies Club with the high school’s Tech Team was shared on YouTube on March 28. Since then the video, which promotes pledging to ban the use of the “R-word,” has had nearly 400 views.
According to NHS senior and Best Buddies Club President Charlotte Gray, the club has helped share the Spread the Word To End The Word Campaign each school year.
The NHS Chapter of Best Buddies — a program fostering one-on-one friendships between high school students and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities — is advised by Jill Gonski and Mimi Riccio.
According to r-word.org, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics and Best Buddies “to inspire respect and acceptance through raising the consciousness of society about the R-word and how hurtful words and disrespect can be toward people with intellectual disabilities. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools, organizations, and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
This year, she said the club decided to do something different. The club hadn’t made a video before, so Charlotte said the Best Buddies Club enlisted the help of the NHS Tech Club members.
Then Charlotte said she created a story board for the video and made the video.
When the video was shared, having students in the video, Charlotte said, added a “personal touch.” So, she explained, when other students see the video they connect with their friends they see spreading the campaign’s message.
“They’re able to put a name to a face and say, ‘Okay, if they are all taking the pledge, then I am too,’” Charlotte said.
The response, said Charlotte, has been “really good.” The club has gathered upwards of 800 signatures for the pledge.
“A lot of people have been commenting about ‘what an amazing video,’ ‘I loved watching it,’ ‘thank you so much,’” she said. “And I know people have put it on Facebook, Instagram, anyway they can get it out, they have been sharing it.”
In the video Charlotte explains, “When you use the R-word to describe someone or something you think is bad or stupid it becomes another thoughtless hurtful word. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not bad. They’ve incredible abilities. The prejudice and discrimination of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is bad and wrong. Please stop the use of the R-word. It hurts individuals and families and friends of people with disabilities. The R-word hurts us all.”
The video shows students working together to share the message, personal stories, and photos of friends doing different activities.
One student in the video said, “I think we should ban the word, because it can be really offensive to my best friends.” Another said, “I want to ban the R-word because I think it is a mean word and it is disrespectful.”
Ms Gonski and Ms Riccio also speak in the video.
“We ask that all of you take the pledge to ban the R-word,” Ms Gonski said in the video. “It’s a hurtful word for children who have intellectual disabilities, their family, their friends.”
Ms Riccio explained in the video that people may use the word without thinking about it, because they don’t realize how hurtful it is.
“So take the pledge, think before you say anything, and promise not to say the R-Word,” Ms Riccio said.
At a Best Buddies Club meeting on Thursday, April 10, Ms Riccio said about 40 students participated in the making of the video. She also said the high school has been supporting the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign for about six years.
Along with the video, Ms Riccio also said Best Buddies Club members have been in the high school’s cafeteria during lunch waves to promote having other students sign the pledge. T-shirts are also made each year. This year the Student Government helped cover the costs of the shirts, Ms Riccio said. Anyone interested purchasing one of this year’s T-shirts, which read “We Pledge to Start the New R-Word RESPECT,” can contact Ms Riccio by e-mail at RiccioM@newtown.k12.ct.us for more information.
Ms Riccio also said Best Buddies has been growing since Ms Gonski started the NHS chapter in 2003, and this year the club has 150 members.
To promote spreading the message Ms Gonski said Best Buddies Club members have been explaining how hurtful the R-word can be.
“I think a lot of times people don’t realize how hurtful the word is to others,” Ms Gonski said.
To take the pledge visit r-word.org.
More Best Buddies News
The NHS Best Buddies Club was also recently nominated for Outstanding Chapter for Best Buddies Connecticut, according to Ms Gonski.
“So out of all the high schools that have Best Buddies chapters we were nominated as the best chapter in Connecticut,” Ms Gonski explained.
After being selected by Best Buddies Connecticut, Ms Gonski said the NHS chapter now moves on to being considered for the position of best chapter in the country.