FRA has taught me that everyone has a different story. I’ve been taught so many things academically throughout my time here, but most of what I’ve learned has gone far past the classroom. I’ve learned how to see how rich people’s personalities are, to never judge someone because of their appearance or disabilities, and how to be a better leader in our society. We have so much to learn from our Heart to Heart students and this school year, I feel honored to be doing just that.
Over the course of this school year, I’ve been participating in the inaugural Exceptional Learners program. Through the class, I’m given the chance to learn about different disabilities both inside the classroom and outside. I feel so honored to be in a course that focuses on the textbook, but provides a larger impact through building friendships and emphasizing hands-on learning. From our textbook, I have been able to gain knowledge on different learning differences and how to better serve each student. We’re given a series of case studies that display a situation that our class then analyzes and strategizes for.
Following textbook, in-classroom learning, we then spend most of our time with our exceptional learning partners. I’m fortunate enough to be paired with Maddox Rodriguez. Maddox and I may be very different in our interests, but we still have an incredible friendship and are able to relate to each other every single day. We learn important skills such as accommodating our partners, not modifying things for them. I’m able to sit and help him set goals not only for each school week, but for his future.
The impact Maddox and this program is making on me is one of the largest I’ve had from FRA. The course is showing me how I can make a difference in the life of others and it’s also evident how Maddox is making an impact on me. Our society is all diverse and different, but being a friend to those you see and loving them through each process is how were meant to live. Maddox is a friend to everyone, always wanting to give everyone a hug and greeting them with a smile. When I leave FRA, I hope I can be half the friend Maddox is to me.
One of my favorite memories has been going to ceramics class with Maddox. At the beginning of the school year, we used to go to the class each day and he would dread having to get his hands dirty. After a semester long of setting goals and making progress, it’s now one of his favorite classes. Maddox is able to push himself and be creative without stressing about the clay all over his hands. Now, whenever we go to ceramics, I leave with a smile hearing Maddox say the phrase, “I love ceramics. It’s fun getting your hands dirty”.
I’m learning the importance of forming relationships and what it means to know people deeply and support them endlessly. I hope future students taking this course come ready to be impacted and challenged just as I have been. My eyes have been opened to what it means to be a part of the FRA family and how we can all help each other grow. I hope the program continues to take off and becomes a staple in the FRA curriculum. The Exceptional Learners program is changing lives, especially mine. I hope every FRA student has the chance to grow alongside these amazing students in a program like this one.
Thatcher recently graduated with the class of 2022 and attended FRA since kindergarten. He was one of nine students selected to participate in the Exceptional Learners program this year. Outside the classroom, Thatcher was the 2021 and 2022 Region and State champion in track and field for the 400M. He was also named TWSA All-State in track and field and wrestling and qualified for the 2022 New Balance National Indoor Track Meet by scoring a 6300 in the decathlon. Thatcher will attend Texas A&M University in the fall.