Writing Collaboration Creates an Opportunity to Tell New Stories

Ola’s Writing Buddies program allows intellectually disabled students to share “A Collection of Tales”.


Payton DiSario

Jordan Branson, freshmen, and Crawford laugh along with the rest of the combined class as Branson reads their collaborative story aloud. “[Branson] thought everything was funny so it really made my day every time I saw her. Just her laugh was so contagious,” Crawford said.

Payton DiSario, Copy Editor

Laughter, smiles and imagination filled the air as students of Ola’s intellectually disabled programs came together to create “A Collection of Tales” during Ola’s first Writing Buddies collaboration. Creative writing students framed the stories that the intellectually disabled students could not wait to tell.

Some of the creative writing students were apprehensive about working with the intellectually disabled. For some, including Madeline Crawford, senior, they worried they would not be able to help their pair of students.

“Honestly, I was a little nervous because I thought that she wouldn’t be as interested, but she loved the ideas that I had and she loved making her own story, and she was very involved with it,” Crawford said.

Other buddies, such as Enrik Mejias, senior, were anxious to meet the intellectually disabled students. Mejias was adamant to show his classmates there was nothing to fear before they even began the collaboration.

“I don’t think people understand that these kids are more three-dimensional than they may initially think. I feel as though a lot of people think those kids are unable to interact as well as others and when that happens, you’re not allowing them to have a ‘normal’ life,” Mejias said.

As nerves subsided through several light-hearted games of dodgeball, the students got to know each other.

They have stories to tell but most people just don’t even know to listen,”

— Madeline Crawford

“They have a lot of personality. Like, [Ashley Johnson] is super sarcastic. [Jordan Branson] loves to be funny. Like, there’s so much beyond what we see because each person is so different and unique,” Crawford said.

After becoming friends, the groups got started on writing their stories. Randy Porter Jr., junior, was ecstatic to have the chance to write and learn from the people around him.

“They helped me through a lot like editing this and that and spelling this and that. It helped me a lot with my writing and how to make people know what I mean,” Porter said.

Porter thoroughly enjoyed the activity. He tells stories that capture an audience’s mind

“I love [writing]. It’s a great privilege,” Porter said.

The experience taught members from both programs something new. While some students learned about how to structure a story, others learned that they need to pay more attention.

“It’s important to do things like this. These kids, normally they’re not as involved with the rest of the student body. They have stories to tell but most people just don’t even know to listen,” Crawford said.

Payton DiSario
Lynzie Lyle, junior, and Jaelin Thompson, freshmen, share a fist bump for good luck before they present their story to their peers. “This kid has an amazing sense of humor and genuinely radiates happiness. Every time I got an opportunity to work with him, he brought a smile to my face,” Lyle said.

The teachers involved were grateful for the program and they were proud of their students.

“It’s always important for our kids to be involved with the general ed. public, to give them a sense of inclusion and give the gen. ed. kids a chance to see some of the disabilities and to see not only how they can work with our kids, but how it’s important that everyone is valued no matter their ability,” Stephanie Brown, teacher of the moderately intellectually disabled, said.

In the future, the intellectually disabled program would love to participate in more integrated learning activities.

“People who want to do anything with our classes are more than welcome. Our kids are always very open to activities with other classes. There should be no fear there. They just want friends… I feel like most of our students don’t meet a stranger,” Rachael McGaha, teacher of the mildly intellectually disabled, said.

The work created can be found at https://issuu.com/henry127/docs/writing_buddies___1_ and Stacey Caldwell, media specialist, hopes to make “A Collection of Tales” available to check out in Ola High School’s library soon.