Congratulations to HERO Club of Amherst County High School - winner of the 2020 Governor's Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Educational Institution! When Amherst County High School student Alannah Wilson started the HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Out) Club four years again, she never dreamed the ripple effect it would have. She founded the student-led organization during her freshman year with a two-fold goal: answering people's questions about disabilities and how those disabilities affect people, and facilitating self-determination and self-advocacy. The club has grown to 30 volunteers, both students and their family members, annually. Membership is comprised of students with and without disabilities.
The HERO Club has hosted various speakers on topics like college readiness, internet safety, and the experiences of a double amputee. One of their educational outreach events included providing a disability simulation at a local fair in which participants were able to experience what it would feel like to have various disabilities. HERO club members also performed numerous community service projects throughout the year, including visiting a local nursing home to facilitate activities and deliver handmade afghans. Club members also wrote letters, petitioned, and spoke before the school board regarding the lack of adequate access and parking for people with disabilities at the school football stadium.
The over-arching effect has been that they have positively and successfully opened conversations, reducing stigma, and building bridges of connections between students with and without disabilities -- improving the overall school climate. Their motto, “I can, you can, we can, together,” is resulting in the improvement of the lives of those in their community through self-advocacy, self-determination, and civic engagement.