Kathryn attended the Waimarie Adult Learning Centre at New Plymouth Girls’ High School for two days a week in 2008. The Unit has traditionally catered for students with severe physical disabilities and in 2007 we enrolled our first student who was mobile.
It was with enthusiasm that we met Kathryn who was not only mobile, but a very athletic young women who loved being on the move. She offered a new energy to the Unit and a program was created to balance the release of this power along side her learning program. Staff were encouraged to engage in a vigorous fitness training program so they could keep up with her on her daily jogs.
Two instances come to mind that provided great humor to all. The school sports days are for all to test their physical prowess or just join in the atmosphere of fun and challenges between the house teams.
We arrived at the large sports venue and maneuvered our five students in wheelchairs towards the grandstand that sat all the waiting teams and spectators. Amongst the hundreds of heads surging in the same direction, the staff lost sight of Kathryn. Anxious staff frantically scanned the mob and covered any possible exit. Suddenly the speaker system blared out “Would that young woman please get off the track.”
Kathryn had leapt over a large fence and was happily jogging down the centre lane towards the finish line leaving the man with the starter gun and row of prime athletes lined up in their starting blocks for the 100 meter sprint looking a tad frustrated. Kathryn had her chance later in the day when she jogged around the arena and gained house points in the 5OO metre fun run.
In term three the school participates in a Fun Run where all students can walk or run a course measuring 5km. Again mufti is allowed and everyone races to the second hand shops to buy their new outfit in their house colours of course.
It was the first time in the Units 13 year history that one of our students could run the course. It was an delight to run alongside Kathryn and hear all the encouraging cheers of support from her peers and staff stationed along the course. Kathryn has a beautiful fast running style which one can liken to a panther in full flight.
The only reason we did not rank in the top times was her great desire to gather treasures on the way. The course was set beside a small river with trees banking it, so a large pile of sticks, leaves and the odd ice cream stick were scooped up on the way. One staff person of my age era likened her to the children’s Sunday Stories favourite “Diana and the Golden Apples.”
For those not brought up in NZ here is what we listened to as kids growing up on a Sunday morning – in stead of the very questionable video music the kids do now . . .