Way2Go pounds pavement again

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

Spectrum High School’s second annual Way 2 Go Walk for Autism Youth Giving Opportunity got under way at Lions Park in Elk River on Saturday. The annual walk is a part of the school’s “service learning” approach that sees students participating in projects in the community from the ground up.

Student announcer Nick Kopp introduced Janette Johnson, director of events and program development at the Autism Society of Minnesota, who thanked the students and teachers for the opportunity to share about autism during the walk.

Gabby Bardell-Palacio and Holly Mickelson carried the Way 2 Go Walk for Autism banner proudly before the crowd that circled Lions Park in Elk River on Saturday.

“Autism is becoming more and more prevalent,” she said, “When I had my first son, one in 10,000 children were diagnosed with it, but just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention increased that to one in 88.” She added that if autism was ever a problem worthy of people’s attention, it certainly is now.

Established in 1971, The Autism Society of Minnesota is an organization of families, educators, caregivers and professionals who are committed to supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

Spectrum students Alexis Sigerud and Ali Henkemeyer sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to rally the crowd, and the walk commenced with students Gabby Bardell-Palacio and Holly Mickelson carrying the banner before the long line of participants.

The Way 2 Go Walk for Autism Youth Giving Opportunity is planned by high school students at Spectrum as a part of their “service learning” experience at the school. Students have 10 choices for their service learning project that carries them through the four milestones of preparation, action, reflection and demonstration to help them get the most out of the experience and to equip them for success and sustained participation in the community.

Karin Ness, special education teacher and coordinator for the project, said the students raised over $400 Saturday alone and are still gathering funds from donors.

“It was a huge success,” she said, “but regardless of that, the real strength of the program is to give our students a rich, hands-on learning experience that has them working together from the ground up to help their community.”