A Cause Worth Fighting For!

On November 13th, 2020, the students who are part of the Make A Wish Club here at Huntington Beach High School (HBHS), hosted an incredible meeting that contained an impactful lesson about ableism.

Now, what is ableism you may ask? Well according to Access Living, ableism “is the discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities.” Demonstrations of ableism all present themselves differently depending on the situation and environment given. These demonstrations can be as subtle as schools separating disabled children from classes, insulting or mocking those who have disabilities, or “refusing to provide reasonable accommodations” for these students. Danielle Ito, president of the Make A Wish Club, was recently informed of these prejudices at HBHS experienced by Grace Cross.

Grace Cross and her service dog Brody on the HBHS campus.

Grace was born with a disability commonly known as Cerebral Palsy. Although Cerebral Palsy is a disorder “that affect[s] a person’s ability to move [and or] maintain balance and posture,” that has never stopped her from accomplishing what she loves to do. On campus, Grace is heavily involved in the performing arts program and she also spends a lot of her free time speaking out against ableism. 

During the virtual meeting, the club discussed the numerous struggles Grace faces on campus. Cross said that daily, “I am stared at [by other students] and [that] they continuously try to pet my service dog, Brody, which makes me feel unsafe,” due to the fact that Brody’s job is to solely focus on Grace’s needs. 

Grace passionately continued the discussion as she informed her audience that she was frustrated when she did not win Sophomore Princess during this year’s virtual Homecoming Court Nominations. Although Grace’s loss was not that big of a concern, the issue was the “lack of disability representation in our systemically ableist society,” said Ito. Ito continued stating, “I had no idea Grace even ran for Homecoming Court in the first place, further demonstrating how the school system remains inherently designed for popularity and conformity rather than [spreading] impactful change.”

“Grace repeatedly mentioned that all she wanted from our school was a platform to share her story, her voice and, her message,” said Ito. “As President of the HBHS Make A Wish Club, I needed to use my platform and leadership to give Grace her own.”

The Effects of Ableism: Post created and designed by the Make A Wish Club

Grace passionately stated, “people have said terrible things about me and my disability… no matter how the world sees me, I am the only one who knows who I truly am.” Grace is a beautiful girl who demonstrates that despite her struggles with society’s ableist pitfalls, she is strong enough to overcome them.

When asked, “what are your plans for the future?” Cross does not hesitate to explain. “I want to go to Columbia University in New York in hopes of pursuing my dream to become an actress.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Danielle elaborated that they hope to discover a way in which the school will dedicate a week to disability awareness similar to Red Ribbon Week. Both the Make-A-Wish Club and Grace Cross will continue to fight against ableism at HBHS, through their social media and other platforms. Grace asks that her community takes into consideration that “small acts of kindness, are amazing forms of support” and can change anyone’s day.