RIGHT AT HOME: Billy Edwards is the first exceptional student to be included in Northside’s JROTC program.  (Mona Moore | Daily News)
RIGHT AT HOME: Billy Edwards is the first exceptional student to be included in Northside’s JROTC program. (Mona Moore | Daily News)

Archived Story

ALL-INCLUSIVE: NHS makes room for exceptional students in elective courses

Published 7:31pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YEATESVILLE — Northside High School junior Billy Edwards wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“My pop was in the military… an auto-weapons specialist, and he drove a tank … called ‘the Peacemaker,’” he said. “He was like a dad. I lived with him when I was little.”
After seeing the Air Force JROTC cadets meet just across the hall from his class for students with moderate intellectual disabilities, Edwards longed to participate.
His teacher, Ginny Gerard-Batts, made it happen.
“She saw the ability in her kids, and they had the desire to participate,” said NHS Principal Charles Clark. “She looked at the obstacles, eliminated them and made it happen.”
Northside is the only high school in Beaufort County with inclusion courses. The program started about two years ago. Students may take elective courses in art, music, physical education and JROTC.
Edwards is the first such student to take JROTC. He is not enrolled in the course because the academic requirements would be overwhelming. Edwards attends classes and goes on some field trips.
“It’s helped him mature a lot and it’s given him responsibility,” said Timothy Greer, a teaching assistant in the IDMO exceptional children’s program.
Master Sgt. Charlie Woolard, the school’s aerospace-science instructor, said Edwards and his classmates each have benefitted from his inclusion.
“Students have been very receptive. Cadets in ROTC recognize what IDMO is, though may not understand any of the limitations he might have,” Woolard said. “Citizenship starts with a little bit of kindness and they are going to learn from him, as well.”
Woolard took Edwards’ inclusion gradually. The plan was for Edwards to take the introduction course every year, but that plan changed. Woolard saw that Edwards had bonded with his classmates and felt he would benefit from advancing with them.
Edwards earned the opportunity to wear the uniform. He participates in class discussions and tried out for the drill team. Edwards made the team after his second try.
“Cadets that were in charge of it said he did very well and felt like they wanted to give him the opportunity,” Woolard said.
Edwards is working on earning ribbons and wants to continue advancing in the program. He works one-on-one with Col. Mark Remick, senior aerospace-science instructor, between classes.
Remick reviews the cadet guide with Edwards and helps him learn what he needs to know about the JROTC uniform and procedures.
The inclusion courses have united the student body. Most students are familiar with the school’s IDMO program. Clubs do things for the class during holidays and drop by to visit IDMO students throughout the day.
“It’s not only in JROTC, but in PE and music,” Clark said. “The students have gotten to know these kids and they’ve become much more involved. They’re included in all of the activities.”

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