Connections Club Connects Special Ed Students

Will Hamilton, Staff writer

Student organizations are an integral part of life at Chamblee Charter High School, but special education students are often not able to participate in these organizations. This small percentage of the student body often feel separated from the CCHS community. However, a new club, the Chamblee Connections Club, hopes to bring that to end and bring the student body closer together.

The Chamblee Connections Club was founded by junior Kathryn Penn, who has worked together with special education teacher Susan Katz to get the club off to a fantastic start.

“I want to focus on building relationships with special ed students to make them feel more included in the Chamblee community,” said Penn. “I hope to do things like play games, make crafts, and just hang out and interact with the students.”

Chamblee Connections Club met for the first time on November 28. Members gave up their lunch period and spent it in Katz’s class, making crafts and talking about Thanksgiving with special ed students. Katz, who has been a special education teacher at CCHS for 16 years, is very excited about the new club and the opportunity it provides for her students.

“It is very impactful because [the club members] come into the classroom and then later, my students might see them in the hallway and say ‘There is my friend!’,” said Katz. “They can go home and tell their parents they had friends come in the room today. My students really enjoy the interactions.”

Penn has been a Girl Scout since she was in kindergarten, and her idea for the club came from her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Over the summer, she will be leading a summer camp-type program for high school students with special needs. She had the idea to also start a club that could serve a similar purpose during the school year.

“I wanted to provide an opportunity to hang out and establish friendships with the special ed students and I had seen similar clubs at other schools, so I knew I wanted to bring it to Chamblee,” said Penn.

Penn had the idea to start the Connections Club at the beginning of her sophomore year, but after limited communication with administrators, she feared she would have to rethink her Gold Award project.

“Luckily it turned out that a group of now-senior girls started a club similar to my idea,” said Penn.

This club was the Friends Club, which was founded by seniors Maddie Miller and Sarah Kaplan. According to Katz, Friends Club didn’t work out. But with a foundation in place, Penn saw it as a good opportunity to get Connections Club started.

“At the beginning of this year, I got in touch with them and they decided to pass off the leadership to me so I could transform Connections Club into my vision,” said Penn.

With Connections Club in place and gaining interest from students, Penn hopes the organization will be able to succeed in developing lasting relationships with the special needs students at Chamblee and by doing so, bring the Chamblee community closer together.