GALION — Julia Conner, a sophomore at Galion High School, took her chemistry assignment to a whole new level with a wonderful “show and tell.”
The lesson for chemistry class was to research the chemistry of something and then report on the findings. Conner chose the chemistry of Autism.
Her father, Alan Conner, is employed at Residential Housing Association of Marion (RHAM) and has worked as a direct support professional (DSP) for eight years. A DSP works directly with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Their goal is to assist those they support in realizing their full potential and helping them get there. DSPs work hard toward integration and community engagement for those they support.
Over the years, the family has grown progressively closer with one of the individuals that her father works with, Joe Hopkins. Beyond caring for Hopkins during his work hours with RHAM, Alan Conner and his family have “taken Joe in” as one of their own. They take him on family outings and even camping trips on occasion. Because of this relationship, Julia has become interested in Autism, Hopkins’ diagnosed developmental disability.
“I actually learned a lot through this project,” Julia Conner said of the assignment. “And what better way to report to the class my findings than to bring Joe in to meet everyone.”
So that is what she did. She said that Hopkins was so excited to go to her school and meet the students. He got to speak about having Autism. He told the class what that is like, and advocated for himself.
“He did great! They all thought he was pretty cool,” Conner said.
She was thrilled to learn more and to allow Hopkins the opportunity to speak for himself.
Actions like these are how barriers are broken and compassionate communities are formed. Conner’s main message to her class was, “just because people may be socially awkward or different doesn’t mean that they do not have gifts and identities.”