By Amber Ginter
Ohio Christian University Teacher Education students and faculty participated in Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine in Circleville Vineyard Church in February. The event gave opportunities to show love and support to those with disabilities.
Night to Shine is a prom where everyone can participate, delivering fun, dancing, music, food, and normalcy. Created to embrace those with exceptionalities so that they feel loved and special, the event enables participants to show kindness in the spirit of Christian faith.
“It was a Christian event. Yet, you need not be a Christian to attend. Involving everyone in the community made a good mixture and gave all participants a dose of Jesus,” students Morgan Jenkins, Jenny Keppler, and Autumn Paugh explained in unison.
Participating OCU students not only blessed others, but they received blessings. “We may have served some here tonight. Yet, they blessed us,” noted Karee Neff, who wants to earn a master’s degree in special education.
Serving as ‘buddies’ to disabled persons, Karee Neff and Autumn Paugh become friends with their peer partners and engaged them in a series of participation stations from hair and makeup, to food, pictures, and dancing down the red carpet. It was not limousine rides or free food that made these students feel compassion to serve, it was their ministering. “Night to Shine matters because it builds awareness, and those with exceptionalities deserve to be treated well like anyone,” noted Jenny.
OCU Teacher Education Professor Valerie Jones explains that “Here you can learn everything about teaching. Yet, if you do not develop empathy, then you miss out. If Jesus and His mission inform your actions, then you become a teacher who can make a difference. We show the disabled our love through Christ. We become a blessing to others as they are to us.”
OCU’s Teacher Education program trains teachers to engage effectively with disabled students. From teaching to exceptionalities, to field experience and training, courses help students learn and teach differentiation, develop individual education plans, as well as accommodations and modifications in interacting. “It is woven into the entire program. Most important is we teach that God created exceptional children and young adults for a purpose. It is our job as teachers to help them achieve their purpose,” concludes Jones.
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