The Maine Developmental Disabilities Council has put out a call for submissions for its 2018 Inclusion Awards. The awards which celebrate extraordinary high school students who think deeply about issues of inclusion for people living with developmental disabilities.

Open to all Maine high school juniors and seniors, the awards have two components: an essay contest and a creative expression contest, which allows students to express these ideas in different media — in graphics, music, video, poetry or multi-media.

This year, students are asked to write essays responding to the following: “What does the full inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities mean to you? What are your experiences/observations around the inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in your school, community, etc.? How would you improve inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities?” Those interested in creating media pieces are asked to use this idea as a springboard: “Full community inclusion for everyone, including individuals with developmental disabilities.”

The experience of participating in these contests has been a rewarding one for both teachers and students, according to a news release from the council. Linda Garcia, an educator at Hodgdon High School, said “By participating in the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council’s Inclusion Awards, my students become advocates for a special segment of communities across Maine and beyond. Through their participation, my students share stories about inspiring individuals who make our world a more beautiful place,” according to the release.

Tabetha Ganzel, a University of Maine student who participated in the contest as a high schooler, wrote of her experience, “I was able to speak out for people like my cousin, with a nerve damaging disorder, and how the disorder affects her daily activities. The essay contest gave me the opportunity to state my thoughts on how we, as a community, could improve our social skills to involve all and make sure everyone is treated equally,” according to the release.

The deadline for entries is Friday, Feb. 16, and prizes range from $250 to $1,000 for individual entries; $500 will be awarded to the teacher with the first-place winning student and $2,500 goes to the school with the most entries.

The council is a partnership of people with disabilities, their families and agencies which identifies barriers to community inclusion, self-determination and independence.

For more information, contest rules and entry guidelines, visit or email [email protected].

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