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Piedmont High students walk for autism awareness

Jonathan Bowers, at right, principal at Piedmont High, joins about 400 of his students during an autism awareness walk held recently at the school. Also pictured, from right, are Bowers, Piedmont Serves faculty sponsor Stacey Butera, Megan Thomas, and Kim Belk, the president of the Autism Society, Union County Chapter.

About 400 Piedmont High School students held a walk at their school Friday (Oct. 2, 2009) to raise awareness and funds for the Autism Foundation.
   
Autism is a mental condition, present from early childhood that is characterized by great difficulty in communicating, forming relationships with other people, and in using language and abstract concepts.
   
“We are still totaling, but thus far we have raised a little over $1,000, plus concessions are donating 50 percent of what they raise today,” said event organizer Megan Thomas, 17, a senior at Piedmont High School.
   
Thomas said she became interested in autism when she began teaching a special needs class at her church. One of her students, Jackson, is autistic. “He’s really touched my heart and that’s why I’m doing all of this,” she said. “He is 7 years old.”
   
“This is really amazing,” said Kim Belk, the president of the Union County Chapter of the Autism Society. “For a high school student to be that concerned about other kids is awesome in itself, but to go the extra step to put all of this together, because it took a lot of effort and a lot of time, is just amazing.”
   
Piedmont High guidance counselor Stacey Butera, the faculty sponsor for Piedmont Serves (the school’s service organization), said students bought $3 tickets and event T-shirt as part of the fund-raising effort. She said she was delighted with the success of the event. (All proceeds raised by T-shirt sales will be donated to the Autism Foundation.)
   
“I’m so happy that Piedmont Serves could help Megan’s vision come to light,” Butera said. “I’m amazed that one student got this up and going, and that this many kids came out to support the cause.”
   
Thomas and other students who are members of Piedmont Serves worked throughout the week to make students aware of the challenges presented by autism. One method of educating students was by placing posters about autism around the school. Thomas also shared information about autism on the daily broadcasts at the school
   
“This is just another example of the commitment to service that students have, not only at Piedmont High School, but in Union County,” said Piedmont High School Principal Jonathan Bowers. “You’ll see examples of this in many schools and on many levels. We’re fortunate to have a group of students that are that forward thinking and that committed to others. It makes you feel good about where we are.”
   
Even though this was the first year for the event, Thomas said she hopes it will not be the last.
 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Oct 09, 2009 by Deb Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator

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