HTS: Bringing Compassion to the World

“Like most 13-year-olds, Aiden Killoran just wants to go to school with his friends and siblings. Last fall, as he attempted to join his elementary school classmates in moving on to middle school, he was barred from entering the school building. Aiden had not broken any school rules or done anything to endanger his classmates or teachers. The sole reason his neighborhood school denied Aiden access was because he has Down syndrome.”

Inclusion Matters For All Students, Brian Freeman and Todd Grindal

Unfortunately, Aiden is not the only child to be segregated from his neurotypical classmates. At Hope Technology School, we aim to break down the barriers between typical and special needs, and, as our mission states, “foster achievement through innovation, technology, and community in a challenging academic environment”.

Children with Down syndrome are frequently turned away from their neighborhood schools and forced to attend segregated programs for students with disabilities. More than 40 years after the federal government guaranteed the right of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment, more than half of students who are classified as having an intellectual disability (typically the official special education designation for students with Down syndrome), are educated in classrooms segregated from their non-disabled peers.
School officials often claim that attending a specialized school is in the student’s best interest.

Inclusion Matters For All Students, Brian Freeman and Todd Grindal

“Community” is the word that best describes how we bring compassion to the world. Through our inclusive classes, we provide opportunities for every student to thrive academically, physically, and socially in order to develop into globally responsible citizens.

Simply put, our inclusive learning culture places typical and special needs K-12 students in class together, where compassion has created a transformative academic, physical, and social experience for each student.

These inclusion-related differences can be substantial, with one study reporting that included students were approximately two and a half years ahead of their segregated peers on measures of expressive language and more than three years ahead in reading, writing, and literacy skills. In addition, included students with intellectual disabilities were nearly twice as likely as their non-included peers to enroll in some form of post-secondary education. Further, the report provides evidence that participating in inclusive settings can yield social and emotional benefits for students with disabilities. Such social and emotional benefits can include forming and maintaining positive peer relationships, which have important implications for a child’s learning and psychological development.

Inclusion Matters For All Students, Brian Freeman and Todd Grindal

Advancing the compassionate power of inclusion is our mission, and, like Nelson Mandela, we believe it can change the world.

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa

How we bring compassion to the world

True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.

Daniel Goleman, “The Roots of Compassion,” New York Times

This month (May 2019), a number of our typical former students are graduating from college. Two of them highlight the enduring power of compassion learned through inclusion. Carolyn Siu is graduating from the University of San Francisco, while David Traver is graduating from Santa Clara University, both with degrees in biology. Throughout their 4 years of college both of them have dedicated themselves to the development of the inclusive E-Sports programs, taking the compassion they learned at Hope Technology School into their communities, resulting in Carolyn becoming part of the team that helped secure USF as a primary partner of E-Hoops. At the same time, David Traver has used his college experience at Santa Clara to inspire countless volunteers to serve in E-Soccer, E-Dance, and more.

Hope Technology School has gone on to win the “Bay Area Parent Best of the Best Hall of Fame Member and Family Favorite,” along with silver and bronze medals in the categories of Best Private High School, Best Private Middle School, Best Special Needs Organization and Best Technology School or Program.

Along with having a local impact, HTS aims to inspire all over the globe, as shown by recently hosting a Korean delegation from the Overseas Training Program for Specialists in Special Education consisting of 15 educators, educational administrators, and policymakers. They observed and met with the teachers and students to learn how to implement the practice of inclusion. The delegation from South Korea was highly impressed with HTS’s use of technology to include students with and without special needs together in the classroom.