Rider Unified hosts the Inclusion Monologues to spread the importance of inclusivity

By Christian McCarville

Practicing inclusiveness is something that has become a necessity. As a community, Rider students and faculty have established an inclusive and friendly environment for all students. Unified Sports aims to further spread the importance of inclusiveness and provide meaningful opportunities for those with disabilities.

Hosted by Rider Unified Sports, the Inclusion Monologues is an event designed to showcase the life stories and experiences of guest speakers to express the importance of inclusion and acceptance. The event was held on March 14 over Zoom.

The Inclusion Monologues began with an introduction from each member of the Unified Sports executive board. Following this, junior computer science major Liz O’Hara introduced the first speaker, Loretta Claiborne.

Having competed in the Special Olympics since 1970 and participated in over 300 local and state competitions, Claiborne has a lot of experience in advocating for her inclusion. She has also served as a board of directors member and chief inspiration officer for Special Olympics Inc.

“When we talk about inclusion, we talk about bringing others into the game,” said Claiborne.

She shared her personal story and her fight for inclusion.

Born with a disability, Claiborne could not see or walk until the age of four. As she grew up, she noticed that a problematic lack of inclusion in the world around her.

Claiborne frequently felt excluded due to her disability.

She was barred from participating on her school’s track team, even after playing a significant role in the fundraising for the team.

“Everyone deserves to be heard, everyone deserves to be included,” said Claiborne. “Is it tough to include somebody? No. It’s tough to be the person who wants to be included.”

Walt Disney Productions filmed a movie about Claiborne’s life titled “The Loretta Claiborne Story.” Claiborne explained that even after this movie, she faced exclusion.

She would be invited to gatherings where she would speak about the film. However, when she was done speaking, the members of the gathering would exclude her from corn hole and other lawn games.

Claiborne was extremely passionate about the need for inclusion, as she fought for it her entire life. She stated how proud she was of Unified Sports for modeling this inclusion, encouraging others to follow this model.

Following Claiborne’s monologue, senior health and exercise science John Berardi gave an introduction about himself and his time at unified.

Berardi is an athlete from The College of New Jersey’s Unified program who has joined the club and now sits on the executive board.

Elementary majors Sammi Lamster and Jessica Lamster spoke next, detailing their experiences with their brother Josh Lamster. Jessica Lamster and Josh Lamster were twins, yet went to different schools due to Josh Lamster’s special needs.

The Lamster sisters explained the struggles they faced with their younger brother.

They learned to take care of him when their parents became sick, supporting his needs and advocating for him.

At the end of Jessica Lamster and Josh Lamster’s middle school education, Jessica Lamster’s school invited Josh Lamster to graduate with his sister. This was very impactful for the family, after so many years of the twins attending separate schools.

“Getting to graduate beside my brother was something I’ll never forget,” said Jessica Lamster.

Kevin Colacello and his mother, Susan Colacello, were the next to tell their story.

Kevin Colacello is a Special Olympics athlete that has worked with Rider Unified for five years.

“Kevin has grown so much due to the support of this program at Rider,” said Susan Colacello. “You can do things different in a different timeline in your own way but that doesn’t provide a limitation on your dreams and what you can do in life.”

Kevin Colacello is a big fan of sports and has aspirations to work with the Trenton Thunder. Unified Sports opened many opportunities for him, allowing him to do what he loves in an inclusive environment.

The event closed with two more speakers, economics professor Hope Corman and alumnus Lauryn Goldstein Walsh.

Corman began the Lawrence Lightning bowling team in 2001 with the help of Mercer County Special Olympics. This team allows Rider partners, alumni, parents, siblings and friends the opportunity to participate alongside the athletes. The Lawrence Lightning has also competed in unified competitions each year since 2002.

Walsh is also very involved with the Unified community, participating in the Special Olympics Unified Bowling League.

She first began participating in 2007 as a freshman at Rider.

Concluding the monologues, O’Hara shared a link to a Jamboard with the audience. This link allowed audience members to sign an inclusion pledge, promising to practice inclusivity and respect to all.

Overall, this event allowed viewers to hear the powerful impact that inclusion can have on the lives of those living with various disabilities. It put things into perspective for those who do not know someone with a disability and reaffirmed the beliefs of those who do.

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