Learning from Each Other: Winthrop High Community Demonstrates Inclusiveness

WINTHROP – The Winthrop High School Double B’s know that using the “R” word is hurtful, especially when it comes to students with mental and physical disabilities. Last week they proved there’s no place for it in their life or anywhere.

Last Thursday morning students known as the “Double B’s” treated their high school classmates to two assemblies highlighting the talent of these students. They also took a pledge not to use the “R” word.

One autistic student who is a self-taught musician, Chris Murphy, played a song on his electric guitar by Bruno Mars called, “Just the Way You Are.” Murphy is a talented drum and bass player. Murphy, a senior comes from a musical family. His father is Matt “Guitar” Murphy who played in the Blues Brothers band in the 1970s.

Pauline Boyajian, one of the “B’s” who heads the Life Skills program at the high school and the other “B” Melissa Benvenuto, who works with autistic students, said students are raising awareness and funds to attend Pierce Camp Birchmont, a residential camp in Wolfeboro, N.H. on Lake Wentworth. Students are selling “Spread the Word to End the Word” t-shirts to help raise the $5,000 they need to go.

Boyajian said the students went last year because of the generosity of community members, businesses and the Massachusetts Port Authority. This year the trip is more expensive because the group needs a wheelchair accessible vehicle. The group plans on about 35 students, including life skills mentors who are there to support the students with disabilities. The trip will take place from June 16-19.

“The purpose of their trip is to expose and explore vocational skills in a different environment,” Boyajian said. She added that students in Life Skills will train in the areas of food, hospitality, tourism and construction. They will garden, paint, rake and clean. There will also be laundry and food preparation. On the final night students will participate in a talent show.

During Thursday’s assembly student mentor Brady McGrath stood with his friend Joey Giuffre and shared how going into Giuffre’s classroom brightens his day. The WHS senior plans on attending Salem State to study special education.

“By using the ‘R’ word you put down all the amazing people,” Murphy said.

WHS football player Tyler Gillis has been a mentor for two years. He said the experience of being friends with Meaghan Barry, who has Down syndrome, will stay with him for life. He shared a story of his football team losing a game one cold day. When everyone had left Gillis noticed Barry standing by herself waiting for him. She has touched him so much that he even wrote his college essay about her.

Anyone interested in donating may send a check to: Winthrop High School, 151 Pauline St., Winthrop, MA 02152 with a memo: Double B’s at Birchmont. Organizers hope to raise 100 percent of the funds so everyone can go for free.

Sue Ellen Woodcock can be reached at [email protected].


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