By Danielle Nelson
*This story is posted on The Express Times website.
Alexa Olah, 18, sits with an Easton’s Angels T-shirt at home in Palmer Township. Express-Times Photo | BILL ADAMS
For Easton Area High School alumna Alexa Olah, recess was more than just climbing on the jungle gym, swinging on swings and sliding down the slide.
Instead, Olah found more joy playing with children who were never in her class.
“I used to play with the kids who were in the special education classroom during elementary school,” said Olah, 18, of Palmer Township.
It wasn’t until high school that she saw the students with special needs again.
In middle school, “the students’ classroom was extremely segregated from the rest of the school,” Olah said. That only ignited a passion in Olah to “break down the barriers that separated special education from regular education,” she said.
Toward that end, Olah during her sophomore year at Easton Area High School, presented her desire to start a club to student council. Over 50 students signed on to join her.
With the assistance of a Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 teacher, who specialized in helping students with special needs, Olah started Easton’s Angels. She also created a buddy program as part of Easton’s Angels to form bonds of encouragement and support between student volunteers and students with special needs.
What started out as club designed to bring together students with special needs and classmates they might not otherwise have met grew into a communitywide club.
The buddy program began assisting children in the Special Olympics, where people with special needs participate in a variety of sports, and Miracle League, a baseball program designed for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.
During fall and spring, Olah and members of the buddy program volunteered to assist people like Michele DiChiara’s son, Christopher Csensits, who is mentally and physically challenged and is often limited to his wheelchair during Miracle League of Northampton County games in Palmer Township.
Csensits is capable of standing to bat, but Olah stands beside him to help him get in and out of the wheelchair and pushes him to the bases. In a game where scores are not kept, Olah helps Csensits in the outfield to catch the ball and Csensits throws it back to home plate.
“I give her a lot of credit that she formed a foundation where a group can specialize in taking care of kids like that,” DiChiara said. “These kids are usually forgotten or looked at as freaks or laughed at. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, ‘Oh, there goes that retard,”’ she said.
“It’s a horrifying thing to hear your kids made fun of, but to see a newer generation of kids who are willing to learn and help these kids is an amazing thing.”
Although Olah is looking to begin college at Monmouth University this fall, Easton’s Angels will continue. Five rising sophomores and juniors signed on to build on what Olah has started.
Now that Olah looks to a new journey, she said the Easton’s Angels club is something she will not forget.
“I am definitely interested in looking into starting something like that (at college) because I looked through a club guide and there was nothing like it,” said Olah, whose efforts forming Easton’s Angels won her a $1,000 Kohl’s Cares scholarship.
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