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Swap-A-Heart demonstrates the importance of inclusion

Oct 31, 2017 01:48PM ● Published by Carol Hendrycks

Swap-A-Heart students in their designed shirts. (Olympus High School)

Gallery: Swap-A-Heart [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

In 2014, Olympus High student and Be Strong committee member Clair Gillett introduced the Swap-A-Heart idea in an effort to create inclusion among the student body. It was so successful that this event continues to rally and unite students and faculty today. The Be Strong student committee, student body officers and PTA leader Jennifer Kleinman collaborated in hosting a successful school assembly and promoting post activities that included 1600 students and 100 faculty/staff. Swap-A-Heart celebrates unique talents, beliefs and cultural differences in a fun, approachable way to encourage students to break out of their social circles.

The PTA-run program delivered T-shirts to participants who, as in years past, created a design and decorated their own shirt to express something unique about themselves. The students are also asked to write an essay about something they are passionate about that is reflected in the shirt design. This work is developed through the English department since all students are required to take English. 

The student body officers and the Be Strong student committee came together with all of the shirts and essays attached to the shirts in envelopes. Students prepared hundreds of these tagged shirts for every chair in the auditorium. All this was in preparation for the morning assembly on Oct. 5, where students gathered to watch a video of the students talking about their diverse backgrounds, passions and unique abilities. The purpose was to have students pick a shirt (that wasn’t their own) and wear it during that day and the following day leading up to the Friday night football game. During that time they were encouraged to find the participant who designed the original artwork, meet their fellow students along the way and discover the diversity within their student body. 

“Students and faculty look forward to the Swap-A-Heart event each year. It’s been rewarding to see the outpouring of support for this project and wonderful to watch these amazing kids learn about their fellow students and build new friendships,” said Kleinmann. With her happy, energetic style Kleinmann was able to oversee the details that helped students unite in learning the value in their differences and the positivity in being more inclusive. 

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