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Project F.U.N aims high for social change

PROJECT+F.U.N+MEMBERS+FUNDRAISE+FOR+SPECIAL+EDUCATION%3A+Rachel+Fernandez+%28sixth+from+the+right%29+celebrates+the+program%27s+successful+fundraising+efforts+since+its+founding+in+December+2015.+The+club+buys+and+sells+popcorn+from+the+non-profit+organization+called+Pop-In%2C+which+benefits+the+special+education+population.+
PROJECT F.U.N MEMBERS FUNDRAISE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION: Rachel Fernandez (sixth from the right) celebrates the program's successful fundraising efforts since its founding in December 2015. The club buys and sells popcorn from the non-profit organization called Pop-In, which benefits the special education population.

PROJECT F.U.N MEMBERS FUNDRAISE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION: Rachel Fernandez (sixth from the right) celebrates the program's successful fundraising efforts since its founding in December 2015. The club buys and sells popcorn from the non-profit organization called Pop-In, which benefits the special education population.

Kathleen Dillon

Kathleen Dillon

PROJECT F.U.N MEMBERS FUNDRAISE FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION: Rachel Fernandez (sixth from the right) celebrates the program's successful fundraising efforts since its founding in December 2015. The club buys and sells popcorn from the non-profit organization called Pop-In, which benefits the special education population.

Miranda Crowley, Staff Writer

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The members of Project F.U.N, a new club at MTHS, first met on December 10, 2015 to discuss the club’s future in Monroe and outline a clear set of goals that the students wished to achieve by the end of the year.

The club’s goals revolve around creating a more inclusive, tolerant and respectful environment for special education students in Monroe schools. It also endeavors to prepare Monroe’s special education athletes for upcoming Special Olympic events and general sports activities.

Project F.U.N came to MTHS after its student founder, junior Rachel Fernandez, appealed to the Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) Unified Sports program and received funding for the new club. She brought the idea to Ms. Kathleen Dillon, the Health and Physical Education Coordinator, and Mr. Ben Ostner, head of the special education program Falcon L.I.F.E., who soon became avid supporters and advisers for the club.

Although the club began with just Fernandez and her big ideas, she later recruited juniors Katie Simone as Vice President, Pooja Sonikar as Treasurer and Emily Miller as Secretary. This board is crucial in helping the members to achieve the club’s ambitious goals and realize Fernandez’ personal dreams for the program.

Fernandez said, “The club acronym stands for Falcons United Now, so I would love to see the club grow and connect with more of the students in MTHS. I hope to impress the importance of tolerance and acceptance upon the school population. The club means a lot to me, and with time others will see how special it truly is.”

Since its founding in December 2015, club members have been selling different flavored popcorn after school to fundraise for upcoming SONJ events. They have also gone on field trips to the Monroe Recreational Center on the north side of town to help the special education athletes work on sports skills. In particular, the club aids the athletes in preparing for Special Olympics competitions in bowling and basketball.

Despite having just started, Project F.U.N has taken off running. Throughout December and the early months of 2016, members have been planning a countywide dance for sometime in April. With inclusion being one of their goals, members hope to see special education and general education students come together for a night of fun. So far, similar clubs in other New Jersey high schools, such as JP Stevens and Metuchen, have indicated an interest in participating in this fun-filled event.

Junior Laurel Fox said, “Working closely with special education students is rewarding and eye opening. I value any opportunity that allows me to step outside of myself and help improve society. The club is fairly new, but I know that the program will be a great success.”

Project F.U.N might be new to MTHS, but its goals and message of tolerance are not. To accommodate the growing special education program, other clubs like Falcon Pals, which works specifically with athletes preparing for the Special Olympics, have endeavored to make the high school a safer environment for differently abled students to have a balanced education.

More importantly, both clubs are responsible for helping special education students to assimilate into general education activities and social life. For instance, with sports being another goal of Project F.U.N, the club has created a basketball team comprised of both general and special education students. Efforts like these to bring a balanced social life to special education students has slowly molded Monroe Township High School into the more accepting and tolerant community that it is.

With such a large special education population in Monroe schools, Project F.U.N is a club that will play a key role in uniting the entire high school student body as one.

Besides special education, in what ways would you like to see MTHS become more tolerant?

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Project F.U.N aims high for social change