Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Aiken Leadership Team wins award



By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Brandon Harrison (right) shows Heather Bowling where to sign a thank-you letter.
(Gary Landers photo)
COLLEGE HILL - Heather Bowling was hesitant about attending her first Leadership Team meeting at Aiken High School.

The doubts almost overtook the 19-year-old senior, who has been legally blind since she was a baby.

Bowling gathered her courage and gave it a try. Since September, she has been an active participant, helping collect items for children in need, visiting retirement communities and picking up litter around the College Hill school campus.

"No one here (in the leadership team) cares that I can't see," Bowling said. "They just know I have to do things slower and differently."

The Aiken Leadership Team, which donates 1,300 volunteer hours a year to community service, on Thursday will be honored by the Inclusion Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes involving people with disabilities.

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The Aiken group is being recognized for its efforts to include all students.

"They focus on one another's strengths and what each brings to the community," said Peg Gutsell, co-director of the downtown-based Inclusion Network.

Aiken's community service team is one of four recipients of an Inclusion Leadership Award..

A 2004 Outstanding Community Contribution Spotlight Award will recognize the 1,000 Hands Project, a collaboration of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission Foundation, more than 30 businesses and hundreds of volunteers. Participants constructed Every Child's Playground at Sawyer Point last year. The playground is designed to accommodate children with disabilities.

The groups will be honored during a banquet at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, downtown.

Bowling said the Leadership Team gave her courage to try new things.

"They treat me like I'm one of them."

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com




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