I’ve got a Rockstar friend I want you to meet; 17 of them actually.
OK, so they don’t have a tour bus, open for Maroon 5, or make guest appearances on late night talk shows.
They do so much more than that.
The Burke High School Rockstars have been a special part of my life for more than six years. I was introduced to them when I was a counselor at Burke. They are an extraordinary group of students ranging in age from 14 to 21. Their medical concerns include cerebral palsy, spinabifida, and various mental and physical disabilities.
Spend a few short minutes in their classroom and you will laugh, cry, dance, sing, and be mesmerized by their joy and love for one another.
Their dedicated, Buffett award-winning teachers of the Year, Marilyn Hinkle (known as Miss M.) and Robin Knudtson are their advocates and biggest cheerleaders. Marilyn worked over the last 13 years to grow, stretch, and advance her special needs classroom into a learning program that engages the entire Burke student body.
Before retiring at the conclusion of this school year, Marilyn and the Rockstars’ Special Olympics coach and adaptive P.E. teacher, Allycia Gerwing, are planning a Rockstar road trip to Chicago.
Seventeen rockstars, 15 parents, and nine staff members (including a nurse and physical therapist) are chartering a bus scheduled to depart April 30 and return May 3 .
The Rockstars are very excited to visit the Chicago Institute of Art, see the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, and sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley Field.
As exciting as Chicago sightseeing is, if you ask the students what they are excited for, several will respond, “the hotel!”
Most of them have never spent a night in a hotel.
But perhaps the most important work of the trip revolves around advocacy. Employment opportunities for them are extremely limited after high school, especially in Omaha. The Rockstars will be meeting with a professional organization known as Think Beyond the Label.
This organization works to provide parents and professionals tools to educate potential employers on the benefits and funds available for hiring people with disabilities. Thirty states — including Iowa — provide Think Beyond the Label services; Nebraska does not.
The Rockstars are currently working on an advocacy presentation which requires classroom curriculum in communication skills, speech, reading, math and problem solving. Their months of instruction, practice and anticipation culminate during the scheduled meeting with members of Think Beyond the Label, where they will advocate for a Nebraska branch of the organization.
The trip has been partially funded through the Lozier Foundation and Sherwood Foundation. Private donors, gifts made by the Burke community and Rockstar fundraising efforts have also contributed to the nearly $16,000 collected.
Truly amazing – right?
Unfortunately, the Rockstars lack $5,200 to make this dream trip a reality.
If funds aren’t collected by March 15 the trip will have to be cancelled.
They need your help.
Give in honor of a family member with special needs. Give in honor of your healthy children. Give because the Rockstars inspire you. Give because your heart just knows it’s the right thing to do.
Please, just give.
Jessica Brashear is married with two children. Read her blogs here on momaha.com.
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To donate to Omaha Burke High School’s Rockstar Account, visit omahaschoolsfoundation.org
All mailed donations should be directed to:
Omaha Schools Foundation
3215 Cumming Street
Omaha, NE 68131
Attn: Toba Cohen-Dunning