Against all odds: Teens advocate in the rain for disability rights & to redefine ‘beauty’

by Stephen Torres-Esquer

If you haven’t heard of The Direction: Lowell High School Advocates, it is a student-led organization, started in my program for individuals with learning differences at Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Teenage students in The Direction: Lowell High School Advocates perform “Take the DIS out of disability’ in the rain without a stage or sound system at the Cinco de Mayo Festival May 7 in San Francisco.
Teenage students in The Direction: Lowell High School Advocates perform “Take the DIS out of disability’ in the rain without a stage or sound system at the Cinco de Mayo Festival May 7 in San Francisco.

The social movement curriculum I teach was designed to expose students to the social movements of the past, while helping them to draw connections to the current issues related to disability rights.

These students decided that they, too, should be included in the diversity movement, so they became advocates and put together a presentation that they have given to over 1,000 students at Lowell High School this year alone! During the presentations, they address topics such as bullying, appreciating diversity and redefining the word “beauty.”

With the success of the on-campus presentations, the team decided that they would take the show on the road.

We scheduled a mini-tour, and stops were to include the Cinco de Mayo Festival on May 7, followed by the Taiwanese Cultural Festival at Union Square and the Carnaval Festival – but they could not have anticipated what happened at their first event.

While some may call these students “disabled,” they are proving to San Francisco how ABLED they are! Rain or shine, stage or no stage, sound system or not, these teens stood brave and tall as they advocated to stop bullying and promoted acceptance of all people, regardless of any differences!

On Saturday, May 7, the presenters met at the McDonald’s restaurant on 24th and Mission Street to run the presentation that they were scheduled to give once on the Main Stage and again on the Community Stage. Together, they marched to the event, only to find that both stages had been shut down due to the rain!

Soon a crowd, including a couple of friendly police officers, began forming to watch the students perform.
Soon a crowd, including a couple of friendly police officers, began forming to watch the students perform.

The entire team, including Ms. Patty Fung and Ms. Doris Posada, who traveled 45 miles from Antioch to support Mr. Stephen and the advocates, were disappointed – but this was not the end of the story for The Direction.

Minutes after being told that the presentations were cancelled, the teen advocates proceeded to organize a crowd, pull out their banner, and they gave a presentation that stopped people dead in their tracks!

While some may call these students “disabled,” they are proving to San Francisco how ABLED they are! Rain or shine, stage or no stage, sound system or not, these teens stood brave and tall as they advocated to stop bullying and promoted acceptance of all people, regardless of any differences!

You can learn more about the organization and the rest of the stops on their mini-tour by visiting their website at www.theDirectionLHS.weebly.com or by liking their Facebook page at facebook.com/theDirectionLHS.

Lowell High School Special Education Teacher Stephen Torres-Esquer can be reached at Stephen.SpEd@gmail.com. And visit him at MrStephenOfficial.weebly.com. His motto is “Taking the ‘DIS’ out of Disability.”

Sponsored by drellischoy.com.au