2019 College Scholarship Winner
The 2019 Scholarship Winner
Mississippi State University
July 15, 2019
We are pleased to announce Creed King as the winner of The 2018 ABC Fundraising Volunteer Recognition Scholarship for $2,500. Creed, who attends the Mississippi State University, was selected from a pool of 160 candidates. Candidates had to submit an essay detailing volunteer work and a volunteer verification form.
Creed composed an inspiring essay about a project – LIONS UNITE! – that she organized to promote inclusion of differently-abled students in mainstream high schools.
Creed’s Winning Essay:
I was five when I punched a kid for taunting a friend on the playground. Elise has autism. I couldn’t just stand by.
I no longer punch kids, but I continue to stand up for inclusion and champion the underdog – those who cannot stand up for themselves. Indeed, my leadership, extracurricular activities, academic pursuits, and core values reflect my foundational belief that “otherness,” or any type of inequity should not inhibit inclusion.
I am President of Lions United, an immersion program where mainstream students mentor differently-abled students. Yet more than mentors, we are friends. I spend one-on-one time with my ESE friends, but as President, I also work outside school hours planning field trips, lobbying legislators for ESE funding, organizing lunches, and working on inclusion initiatives with administration.
Because of my volunteer work, I’ve come to understand that disabled people are genuine, authentic friends gifted with abilities to celebrate, not warehouse. Even so, few opportunities exist for differently-abled people to participate in everyday life. Consequently, I founded LIONS UNITE! to remove these barriers.
LIONS UNITE! flips the standard education model so differently-abled students are integrated into normal high school life instead of sequestered in one part of the school. Through LIONS UNITE!, I create educational and community engagement opportunities for ESE students through activities that allow them to fully participate in “normal” school. I organize shadow days, host Lunch on the Lawn, and find ways to include them in sports.
My goal for LIONS UNITE! is to promote inclusion by providing fun activities where the entire student population can interact. People flourish when they feel like they belong. Additionally, the program features an education component to build empathy and combat bullying. This work is especially important to me because people with disabilities are the nation’s largest minority, but the least integrated into society. At least 85% of students with disabilities have experienced some form of bullying. People with disabilities are 2.5 times more likely to experience violence – and people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted seven times more.
Bullying (which can lead to hate crimes) occurs when people do not understand or respect each other. Studies also show that today’s students score significantly lower in empathic concern for others—and lack of empathy is associated with criminal behavior, violence, sexual offenses, and other antisocial behaviors.
Furthermore, zero-tolerance policies that punish bullying but do not teach have little effect. Instead, peers are the most powerful deterrent against bullying, and teaching bystanders to be supportive can reduce and eliminate bullying. LIONS UNITE! addresses these concerns directly.
My commitment to diversity and inclusion is not always easy – or popular. Mainstream students unaccustomed to hanging out with disabled people can be mean because they “fear” differently-abled people. LIONS UNITE! creates situations for these students to grow comfortable with “otherness.” They develop empathy and come to appreciate the challenges facing our disabled friends. They also discover true friendship, loyalty, and see how talented ESE friends can be. When we understand what someone different from us experiences, we are more empathetic and compelled to stand up for them.
LIONS UNITE! also empowers differently-abled students. They develop social skills and gain self-confidence from feeling valued as part of the greater school community. Research proves it: Being included enriches disabled students emotionally and cognitively. But I don’t need a scientific study to know that having these friends does the same for me. The insight into the human condition and learning what is important – and what’s not – has shaped me into a more compassionate, driven activist.
Lions United is also the impetus for my involvement in other community activities. I coach the bowling and power lifting teams for Special Olympics, teach life skills to disabled campers at an annual summer camp, feed the homeless monthly with my family, and volunteer at a health clinic for homeless families.
Likewise, my academic endeavors reflect my appreciation for inclusion and community engagement. Seeking to better understand their lives so that I can better shape my own, I produced award-winning research on two global activists for National History Day who value inclusion and diversity, nurture community engagement, and champion those who cannot speak for themselves. My research on Jane Goodall (8th place national) focused on how her contributions in conservation, animal welfare, and sustainability have carved pathways of interconnectedness among all living things. My NATIONAL FIRST PLACE project on Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremburg prosecutor (out of 650,000 students), illuminates Ferencz’s message of hope and fight for global peace through law.
My commitment to inclusion and community engagement is in its infancy, and will blossom through my collegiate activism. How cool would it be to have differently-abled people in work environments and college classrooms, fully participating in the community?
I would be honored to live out the ABC Fundraising legacy of service by working to create and build inclusion programs at Mississippi State University and beyond where people listen, empathize, and are drawn to action, together. It’s a fact: Inclusion nurtures empathy. And empathy, which is COMPASSION + ACTION, can change the world.