Spreading the Word About “Spread the Word”

Keith Haring artwork used as the Best Buddies Logo.

Eric Sorge ‘19
EE Staff Writer

The beginning of Spring, March Madness, Saint Patrick’s Day, Women’s History Month: there are many reasons to celebrate the third month of the year for people of all walks of life. For over a million people around the world, March is also a time to celebrate Best Buddies.

Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a nonprofit international organization. It promotes meaningful, one-on-one friendships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those without, fostering inclusion and promoting the end of the social, physical, and economic isolation of those with disabilities.

Trumbull High School, a finalist for the National Spirit of Inclusion Award, has its own chapter of Best Buddies, hosting numerous social events for its many members. This past March, to celebrate Best Buddies Month, Trumbull’s chapter of the organization launched a school-wide campaign urging students to pledge to stop using the r-word (retard). This was done as part of an international effort known as “Spread the Word to End the Word”.

The word is outdated and extremely offensive, especially to friends and family of, or those with, intellectual or developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, it is commonly and casually used, especially by adolescents who don’t truly understand what they are saying.

“A lot of people are not even aware that the r-word is a form of hate speech, and our goal is to spread friendship rather than hate”, says Trumbull Best Buddies Chapter Vice President Regina Misercola.

“We don’t want any students in our school to ever feel that they are being discriminated against”, continues Best Buddies volunteer Delaney Franzen. Essentially, the r-word is used far too often without the acknowledgment of what it really means, and it is imperative that its use comes to an end, promoting acceptance and compassion.

Starting on Thursday, March 22, members of Best Buddies were present in all lunch waves and a sign was hung with the words “Spread the Word to End the Word” and the r-word. The goal was to have students sign a colored circle of paper, pledging to “end the word”, that would be placed on the sign, covering up the word. Within the day, the r-word was completely covered, leaving the image of a rainbow, representing the efforts of the students to promote inclusion and friendship.

“To me, Spread the Word to End the word was about so much more than covering a sign. It was about the student body joining together and deciding that using the r-word is not okay and that they didn’t want to hear it used in the halls of Trumbull High. We worked together to get rid of a word that is hurtful, and left behind something beautiful”, explains President of Best Buddies at Trumbull High, Gillian Kick.

Although Trumbull High’s sign has been completed and Best Buddies Month has passed, its efforts are not over. Best Buddies wishes to spread the ideals of friendship and inclusion while bringing hate and intolerance to an end. While Trumbull’s campaign may have ended, it is important that we all continue to spread the word to end the word.

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