Photo submitted by Rylynn Zanon
TRUST Club members testify before Congress
“I want everybody to be inclusive of everyone. That’s the point of TRUST club is that we include everyone and make all people feel like they’re part of the school,” physical education Teacher, Paula Harrison explained the goals of TRUST Club. On Feb. 9, Harrison, junior, Rylynn Zanon, and senior Audrey Coleman testified before congress on behalf of TRUST Club. Their goal in testifying was to encourage congress to provide funding for the Special Olympics.
In 2017, Paula Harrison started TRUST club, a club where special education students are united with general ed. students through games and activities. Harrison teaches Fitness for Life, as well as Unified P.E., a class students with and without disabilities can take for their physical education credit.
Harrison explained how it all fell together, “It started from students in my Unified P.E. class. We talked about doing a club, and someone said, ‘Oh, we should do TRUST Club,’ and so it began and it was just really small, kids hanging out with our friends from special ed.”
Thus, TRUST Club began and now meets in the auxiliary gym during office hours and is a yearlong activity. Coleman joined in her sophomore year after being convinced by Zakariah Abdallahi, a friend from P.E. class with an intellectual disability. TRUST Club made their mission to break down borders between students with and without disabilities. They bring students together through various sports, wellness and recreation activities.
Coleman added that she went to Prom last year with Abdallahi and “seeing his big smile and the joy that they have when they’re treated as equals was so impactful.”
In addition to just being TRUST Club members, Zanon and Coleman, are members on a student leadership board for Special Olympics Minnesota. Because of their involvement with this, Zanon and Coleman as well as Harrison, were invited to testify before congress on behalf of TRUST Club as part of the Capitol Hill Day for Special Olympics. Harrison explained that though this usually takes place in Washington, D.C., it was held via Zoom this year to minimize risks of Covid. Coleman, Harrison and Zanon accepted without hesitation because of their shared passion of inclusivity and spreading awareness about the power it holds.
It was a really cool experience, they were all wanting to hear our ideas and voices and why we should keep TRUST club going.”
— Rylynn Zanon
The day of the testimony came, and a power outage had canceled school. Harrison scrambled to find a space for them to hold this Zoom meeting, but was able to find a space in the main office. During the meeting, they had the opportunity to give personal testimonies on what Special Olympics and TRUST Club means to them, and how federal funding would benefit their club. Zanon and Coleman were the only two student representatives from Minnesota, and were honored to advocate for TRUST Club to an honorable group of people.
“It was a really cool experience, they were all wanting to hear our ideas and voices and why we should keep TRUST club going,” Zanon said about the experience of testifying.
Above all, having this honor inspired TRUST Club members to strive for more, and shed light on the friendships that have been fostered. The club has grown from ten to 50 members in the five years that it has existed. Throughout it’s existence, the changes in perspectives of individuals is extremely valuable. TRUST Club embraces the fact that not all students talk, look, and think like they do.
Coleman explained what her message to students would be, “Continue to speak kindness. It’s important that our world continues to become more unified and not get distracted on how we’re different from one another.”
All in all, TRUST Club has been an extremely influential and valuable group of friends. Bringing together friends regardless of their ability has began to break down the barriers and stereotypes that surround disabilities. The next TRUST Club event will be the Polar Plunge taking place on March 28.