Garden City High School senior Lindsey Stevenson combined her personal experiences, creativity and passion for helping others when she set out to pursue her Girl Scouts Gold Award. She achieved her goals of making communication more accessible for children and earning the most prestigious recognition in Girl Scouting.
Over the course of many months and a total of 80 hours, Stevenson designed, created and implemented a Communication Station Core Board for Homestead School, where she attended the primary grades many years ago. The board, used as a model for its young viewers, displays 35 visual icons that represent an assortment of needs, actions and emotions. It helps children with complex communication needs use language to communicate and interact with their teachers and peers.
The inspiration behind the project goes back to Stevenson’s involvement at the high school. She began participating in the Promoting Acceptance and Inclusion through Recreation in Schools (PAIRS) program, which helps students make friends and feel included, under the guidance of Speech-Language Pathologist Anne Cloghessy. It was then that she realized how difficult communication could be for her peers with disabilities, and began to investigate challenges that younger students face.
“Through my research I discovered that [younger] students with disabilities have even less opportunities to communicate with their peers,” Stevenson said. “I wanted to help fix this.”
She planned her initiative under the mentorship of Cloghessy. Despite the pandemic and shutdown last spring, the two remained in consistent contact, speaking multiple times per week and in some cases, each day. She also received support from guidance counselor Jim Malone and his wife Diane, who provided funding for the project through the Jamie & Paige Malone Foundation.
“The impact that Lindsey has made is remarkable,” Cloghessy said. “She wanted to give back to her community.”
The district is so impressed with the finished product that plans are in the works to have more boards produced and installed at the other schools. Members of the Administration, faculty and Stevenson’s family, along with her Girl Scouts leader Laura Graney and representatives from the district’s SEPTA organization, came together by the board just outside of Homestead on April 28 to celebrate her success.
“Lindsey’s extraordinary project provides even our most complex communicators a way to interact with their friends, peers and teachers,” said Homestead School Principal Dr. Suzanne Viscovich. “Thank you, Lindsey, for giving our students a voice and for being true to our mission and vision of including every child.”
“This is a wonderful example of a student who took something on that they learned through our schools, to make us even better,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kusum Sinha. “Lindsey has helped our students and we are going to have this board at all of our buildings.”
—Submitted by Garden City Public Schools