“On our way to a school presentation, Shelly and I talked about her high school days, and she told me she had never attended a class reunion,” Carolyn Ferber, Community Education Coordinator, explains. When they figured out 2014 marked her 25th reunion, Shelly decided she wanted to make sure she went this year. They called her alma mater, Hancock County High School, asking if they knew of any plans for a reunion. The school suggested they check the local paper. Shelly put her family on alert to watch for reunion notices.A few weeks later, Carolyn received an email from Michelle Gregory, a teacher at North Hancock Elementary School in Hawesville, and participant in the No R Word program. Gregory also happened to be Shelly’s classmate. “We couldn’t believe it! She asked me to pass along to Shelly info about their class reunion on May 24.” Shelly made arrangements with her staff for her to go.
“I had the best time!” Shelly shares. “I remembered faces, but not everyone’s names. Everyone came over to talk to me. Many had seen me in the newspaper or heard about my work with Wendell Foster.” Michelle agreed the reunion was good for Shelly, but thought it was even better for their classmates. “It was good for our classmates to see Shelly, because they saw her in a different light, as a real person. Any walls created in people’s mind about Shelly’s disability disappeared when she started cutting up with them, laughing, and sharing what all she’d been doing for twenty-five years.”Reconnecting with high school friends was important to Shelly. “They were very accepting of me during high school. Some even helped me get to and from classes. Now we stay connected on Facebook. If it was not for my work with the No R Word campaign, I might not have had the opportunity to reconnect with my high school friends. Just another way Wendell Foster continues to open up a whole new world for me.”