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Seeing With Our Hearts, Not Our Eyes

<i> Isaac Carrillo, 18, graduated in June and lives in Oxnard with his family. He plans to enter the Marine Corps</i>

Editor’s note: This first-person essay, originally published in the Channel Islands High School newspaper Isle File, was awarded honorable mention in the 1998 Los Angeles Times Valley & Ventura County Editions High School Journalism Awards.

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Special education is the class that people fear, “the hidden classroom of the school.”

Many pass by with their smirks, not even knowing what it’s about. They think the people in the class are so different and weird when they don’t have any room to say anything because they haven’t seen or been around them.

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That’s not so with me. For 10 years I have volunteered my time and experienced first-hand what the avoided classroom is really like. Being around these people for that long and working with them, I’ve learned a lot about them and what kind of programs there are available for them. Especially, I’ve seen how others feel toward them and how we should be toward each other.

I’ve learned that there weren’t always programs there to help or even educate people with disabilities. But now there are, from elementary school to levels after high school.

For instance, here at Channel Islands High School there are a couple of programs available. There is the Special Day Classes program for the learning handicapped and a post-secondary program for the severely handicapped.

This is a program for people who have difficulties in certain subjects in the classroom. It teaches individuals who have a physical or mental disability that makes it extremely difficult for them to accomplish things. And since they are at the ages of 18 to 22, they don’t concentrate too much on a classroom setting. Instead, they focus more on teaching the activity of adult living, how to react out in the workplace, and to communicate with others properly.

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Since beginning to volunteer my time in the third grade all the way up to now--my senior year in high school--I’ve had the chance to make a lot of special friends and learn so much from them.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve felt a close bond with these special people. You see, I was born three months premature at 1 pound, 6 ounces. I was near death at birth, and doctors said if I made it at all that I would have some birth defect, possibly be blind or retarded.

But here I am only wearing eye glasses, heading toward graduation and a member of the football team. Knowing I could have been like that, the least I can do is help them in any way I can, so here I am doing it. I’m even planning on making it a career.

As I’ve been working with these people I’ve seen and heard a lot of cruel things directed at them. Most people first and only see their appearance and don’t give them a chance to show how they really are. They’re really kind-hearted, loving people. They welcome everyone with open arms, not seeing any difference as if they were blind (like some of them are and like I was thought to be).

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That’s the way everyone should be--as if they were blind, not seeing with their eyes but with their hearts. Then maybe a lot of the horrible things in the world wouldn’t happen.


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