‘Typical’ teenager becomes passionate inclusion champion
Hayley Dietz co-forms youth inclusion group, changes career plans
Friday August 24, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
An Ontario youth who describes herself as a typical teenager determined not to be swayed by any presentation, has become deeply passionate about and committed to doing what she can to create more inclusive communities.
The change for Hayley Dietz began with her involvement in a Character-in-Action Challenge at her high school where she experienced an unprecedented level of connection and empathy with her peers.
“Everyone cried and hugged, and for once the school (community) was connected. We were whole. Feeling that way set off such a passion within myself to achieve this for longer than just one day. We need that in our communities, schools, workplaces,” says Dietz.
When the opportunity came to join a youth leadership initiative on inclusion, re:Action4Inclusion, Hayley says she jumped for it.
After meeting many people who have a disability she discovered a new layer in the desire she had first felt during the high school event — to have that level of connection and empathy amongst people it would be important to begin with ensuring everyone is included.
“We’ve managed to segregate based on so many differences. I felt this ‘difference’ needed to be addressed first,” Hayley says.
Eager to dive into real action, she took part in forming a youth inclusion group called Perth County Youth 4 Inclusion. The group met regularly to talk and plan events to bring their vision of a fully inclusive and integrated community into being.
Their activities included recruiting disability thought-leader Norman Kunc to speak on inclusion at several local schools, as well as participating in a three-day inclusion conference, the Toronto Summer Institute.
“I cannot even begin to describe the change in my life this all has created. I had myself so figured out up until last year,” Hayley, who is now working at Community Living North Perth, says.
She notes exactly 10 months ago she was determined to be an artist, “live freely and happily,” but then dropped out of university realizing there was something missing in that mission.
Today her intention is to become an art therapist and help people express themselves.
“Those who cannot find words to express their thoughts, I want their voices to be heard, loud and clear.”
She adds she is eagerly waiting for September to embark on this new adventure, noting her work with the community living agency has helped her “fuel the fire” even more.
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