Growing up, Governor Gavin Newsom struggled with dyslexia. He wrote a children’s book, Ben & Emma’s Big Hit, to share his challenges and spark a discussion. On October 14, in honor of National Know Your Classmates® Day, he read to students at Pacific Elementary School in Sacramento and talked about what it was like for him to grow up with learning differences.
“The spirit of public education is to make sure everyone is accepted and included no matter what our differences are,” Governor Newsom said.
This event helped students understand more about learning differences and encouraged them to celebrate differences and build a culture of belonging at schools.
The event was live-streamed to schools across the country and students were able to ask the governor questions, too. Know Your Classmates was developed by Beyond Differences to break down barriers around race, religion, gender identity, and physical and developmental learning differences. The program added a new lesson to the curriculum this year on Disability Visibility. Will Wolf and Harita Kavai, high school Teen Board members of Beyond Differences, were part of the team that wrote the lesson plan on Disability Visibility in this year’s Know Your Classmates curriculum. They attended the event and conversed with Governor Newsom about what schools and communities can do to help students with learning disabilities be seen and feel a sense of belonging.
He emphasized that all students regardless of their abilities can contribute and everyone has an opportunity to step up and build a culture of belonging at their school.
“All of you have the capacity to be leaders by modeling better behavior, being the example, reaching out, and being empathetic to other people,” Governor Newsom added.
Governor Newsom reminded students that they all have unique qualities and each person does things differently. He pointed out that whatever learning differences or challenges any of us have, it is what makes us who we are and serves as our superpower.
“It’s not a disability. It’s a different ability,” he concluded.
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The misson of Beyond Differences® is to inspire students nationwide to end social isolation and create cultures of belonging for everyone. We envision a world where all youth are accepted, valued, and included no matter their differences. Beyond Differences® offers FREE SEL curriculum, lesson plans, and supplies’ to middle school educators all across the nation. Bring our programs to your school today!