MORONGO BASIN — It’s National Disabilities Awareness Month and students with disabilities are being recognized for their efforts and achievements in the Morongo Unified School District.
MUSD provides services to approximately 1,300 students with special needs. These services can include special education academic courses, student aides, speech language pathologists and high school programs for special needs students to transition to life after school and to get ready for the workforce.
Administrators asked local schools to nominate one of their students with disabilities to be honored by the board of education.
“This is one of the highlights of the whole year for us,” said MUSD Superintendent Tom Baumgarten. “The strides that these students make both in and out of the classroom are truly inspiring.”
The first student to be recognized during the evening was Jaxen Childs, a student from Yucca Mesa Elementary School. Jaxen was accompanied by his mother, teacher and two aides who said that his nickname is Action Jackson because he is always on the run. Childs loves to take things apart and put them back together and the staff at Yucca Mesa said that they are so proud of how far he has come.
Ethan Snider was honored from Joshua Tree Elementary School. Giovanni Colegio was honored from Friendly Hills Elementary School.
“He is always in a good mood and encompasses PBIS ideals,” said Colegio’s principal, Deanna Skinta. PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, the program schools use to encourage good behavior.
Deegan Evans-Hertzog was honored from Morongo Valley Elementary School and Connor Smith was honored from Onaga Elementary School. William Wright was honored from Yucca Valley Elementary School and Hunter Henschke was honored from La Contenta Middle School.
“He is willing to work through tough problems and is always a pleasure to have in class,” said Henschke’s former math teacher Kathryn Douglas. Douglas remembers that Henschke has not always been a fan of math and while they had a rough start, he improved every day and she is proud of his accomplishments.
From high school, Jesse Klintz was honored from Black Rock High School and Destiny Lesley was honored from Yucca Valley High School.
When Klintz started high school, he was withdrawn and had trouble communicating, but through working with Black Rock staff, he has become focused and engaged. Klintz is now on track to graduate high school early and has contributed to the school through his artwork. He will be designing the cover of the yearbook this year and is also working on plans for a new school mural.
Lesley is also on track to graduate high school this year with a grade-point average close to 4.0. She also plays basketball and works a part-time retail job in town.
“She works so hard and she excels in so many things,” said Lesley’s principal, Justin Monical.
The families, friends and staff members of the honorees clapped from the crowd and after all of the students were honored, the meeting broke into intermission with snacks and drinks.
“This is our favorite time, to be able to recognize the students for their hard work and thank the parents and the staff,” said Heidi Burgett, who oversees special education programs. “It takes everyone to help these students succeed and we’re so proud of their accomplishments.”