A student steps onto stage at Forest Grove High School and says, “I’d like to dedicate this performance to anyone who has ever felt excluded, it’s called 'Army of One.'”
Chelsea Ivey is introducing the latest play from Project Unify Productions. The program brings together 40 students with and without special needs.
“We’re doing this through Special Olympics and I don’t know of another school in the country where it’s happening,” said director and special education assistant John Anderberg.
Special education student Lauren Draves says the play takes on issues she’s faced in school. “Kids would call me four eyes when I had my glasses and they wouldn’t pass the ball in PE.”
Now she’s sharing the stage with students she once might have feared. “Being here in the play makes me feel like I belong,” Lauren says.
The script was inspired by experiences students wrote about in English essays.
“We cover a lot of ground: poverty, sexuality, being excluded – all issues these teens are facing,” Anderberg says.
When Project Unify presented a bullying play last year, the administration reported a drop in bullying complaints.
“I don’t like playing the bully in my scene. But I’ve learned it’s not about what I’m doing when someone bullies me, it’s more about them and their troubles,” Chelsea says.
The program is not only changing what’s happening in school hallways, it’s giving special education students a chance to overcome the challenge of getting on stage,
“I freeze up every time,” says Lauren, “but then I think of my family and I feel comfortable again.”
The students will present two performances of “Army of One” this week at Forest Grove High School.
Then they’ll take it to two schools in Hillsboro.
In the end the goal is to have their program become a model for other schools around the country,
“I’ve already heard from two school in other states. I’m so excited to pass along information about what we’re doing here through Special Olympics,” Anderberg concludes.