For my social justice event I returned home to volunteer for a day with the Jason Roberts Challenger League. The Jason Roberts Challenger league is a baseball league for mentally handicapped children that accept volunteers of most ages. You are assigned a “buddy” who you help and keep an eye on during the baseball games. It also gives parents the opportunity to coach and play with their handicapped children in a new and exciting way. When I was in middle school I would attend it regularly but as I grew older, I became busier and was unable to continue. But after a phone call from a family friend I went back as a favor because they were short-handed for a game. At first I did not realize that this could be categorized as a social justice event, but then I remembered our readings by Kliewer and Kahne and Westheimer.
The reason I would volunteer for this league when I was younger was because my grandmother, as most of you know by now, used to work in the Boston public school system in a special needs/handicapped classroom. So naturally she encouraged me to participate. I was assigned a young boy named Alan who unfortunately has down-syndrome. This event connects to our readings through Kliewer’s work “Citizenship in school: Reconceptualizing Down-syndrome”. Within this reading there is an excerpt that I believe accurately describes what the Jason Roberts Challenger League tries to do. “Now we know that people with disabilities can learn and have a full, rich life. The challenge is to erase negative attitudes about people with developmental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities.” The Challenger league gives these children an opportunity to participate in a sport that otherwise would not be available to them. It also allows them to play this sport with children just like them. It breaks down a barrier that had been holding these children back.
It also connects to Kahne & Westheimer’s piece entitled “In the Service of What?” This goes into detail about various ways in which students can perform community service and talks about what the students feel they get out of it. What I feel I get out of this is knowing that I helped someone do something fun that they were not able to do before. Even though I am not playing in the game myself, I am still having fun watching the children play baseball in their own unique way. Also seeing the smiles on the parent’s faces as they watch their children have fun is another bonus.