Junior Catherine Contreras is passionate about the inclusion of special needs students and is the president of the Best Buddies Club. On Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she won the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Award for the city of Rockville.
Contreras tries her best to promote inclusion. She has had an educational internship with the SCB program and the Autism program for three years. This year is her first year as a chapter president in Best Buddies. To advocate on behalf of special education programs, she filed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint. “I would say promoting inclusion is my passion because I believe including everyone is so important.
The special education programs at Wootton mean the absolute world to me. I personally don’t think that just because most of them are nonverbal/not really able to express themselves, that their needs should be ignored, which is why I advocate on their behalf,” Contreras said.
Other students who intern with Contreras acknowledge her passion for the special education program. “She’s really good with the kids and enjoys spending time with them,” senior Colin Brick said.
Contreras was shocked when she found out that she won the MLK Jr. Youth Award. She did not know much about the award but was honored to be the one to receive it. “There was a miscommunication and when I first found out, I didn’t know much about the actual award but I was very grateful to be the one to receive the award for the city of Rockville. The award ceremony was on MLK Jr. Day, however, I unfortunately could not attend due to prior commitments but senior Hari Kannan accepted the award on my behalf,” Contrearas said.
Friends of Contreras praise her for her efforts in bringing awareness and her passion for the special education programs. “Seeing Catherine work so hard for the special education programs is truly inspiring. She has a good heart and always tries to make everyone feel included. Her passion for the program is one of a kind and she is very admirable,” junior Erin Chang said.
Teachers nominated Contreras for the MLK Jr. Youth Award and they commend her for her efforts in the special education program and community. “Catherine’s passion for our students is very unique. She knows each student by name, greets them and holds them all to high expectations. She has created multiple out-of-school events and worked closely with the teachers, students, and students’ families to ensure every one who is interested can be involved. Catherine is a champion for our students everyday. We are all lucky to have her and are lucky to work with her,” Special Education teacher Lisa Young said.