Katy Blakey

Highland Park Students Organize Project Focused on Compassion

Two students are encouraging their peers to spend a day in their shoes

For junior Katherine Hall navigating the halls of Highland Park High School in her wheelchair is a daily occurrence. Born with cerebral palsy, Katherine has spent nearly every day since kindergarten in a wheelchair.

"You have the saying you don't know a person until you've been in someone's shoes for a day and it's kind of hard to do that in a wheelchair, because no one knows what that is like," Hall said.

So together with her best friend, Enderle Madden, the girls proposed the Wheelchair Challenge. They challenged some of their peers to spend one day in a wheelchair to gain a new perspective.

"They have to learn so many different ways to do things," Madden, a junior, said.

To their surprise the campus went all in, volunteered and raised one thousand dollars for charities that provide wheelchairs.

"People really do look at you a lot. And I don't think they know that they are. It's kind of subconscious," said Natalie Ward, a senior who participated in the challenge.

"Everything is a lot more challenging," said Alex Sharp, an art teacher who also participated. "It is socially different because you aren't eye level with everyone and I feel kind of ignored in a way."

The Wheelchair Challenge is just one of the projects started by Hall and Madden. Both girls helped start an on-campus club devoted to issues surrounding those living with disabilities. Their hope is the one-day experience will evolve in a lifetime of compassion and empathy.

"It made me really happy to see how much people care," Hall said. "Because sometimes to me it seems like they don’t care at all, but when we have these things it puts hope back."
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