WCU rallies to end the “R” word

Western Carolina University took a stand on March 4 to raise awareness against using the “R-Word” by hosting an “R-Word” Rally for students to come and support the University Participant Program (UP) Participants.

Kelly Kelley, the go-to person for the UP  program at WCU, said that the students involved with the program put the event together.

“We put this together to promote inclusion and acceptance to drive home the point that everyone is different in their own ways but at the end of the day, people are people and we all want to be treated with respect,” said Ashley Phillips, a student who helped make the event happen.

Several participants from the UP program prepared a speech on what they have experienced at Western and how the “R-word” has personally affected them. Their message was that they are the same as everyone else and that support and friendship goes a lot farther than judging one another.

“When you say it, you can’t take it back,” said Trace Shuler, a UP Participant.

Photo Credits to WCU R-Word Rally Facebook page.

Ruby’s Rainbow representatives take the pledge with Zach and Ally.

Ruby’s Rainbow, an organization that supports students with down syndrome, was at the event to show support. Ali and Zach in the UP program both were awarded scholarships through this program.

Liz Plachta, from Austin Texas, is the president of Ruby’s Rainbow and became passionate because her daughter rocks an extra chromosome.

Plachta and Kelly Hampton both traveled to WCU for the Rally and to see a day in the life of Ali Hale and Zach Benton.

Hale and Benton both spoke during the rally and were very passionate about the way people need to act to others. Being able to see the emotions of those affected firsthand allowed WCU students realize that something so small can actually be something so powerful to someone else.

“Lets all be friends and protect each other from it,” said Zach Benton.

As Kelly Hampton listened to the support from the audience, she commented that being a parent of a child with a disability, it is extremely inspiring to see so much hope and support through a program in a college setting.

“When you have something that is so passionate, you can make a change,” said Kristen MaCWilliams, a student involved with helping in the UP program.

At the end of the Rally there was a banner available to all attendees who wanted to sign and take the pledge to eliminate the use of the “R-Word” from their daily lives. After the banner was signed, the UP Participants, students and anyone who wanted to support walked from the UC to Reid gym, raising awareness.

The Banner of those who took the pledge will hang at the entrance of the University Center from March 16 until March 30.


Related stories:

UP and Away: Program offers genuine college experience

Living with autism