Thames Elementary (Hattiesburg Public School District) and The Arc Southeast Mississippi, University Baptist Church - Creating a positive learning environment with a focus on individuals with disabilities

Students impacted: 500
Volunteers: 45
Duration of partnership: The Arc - 30+ years; UBC - 5 years

There are 100 students with significant disabilities within the Thames school community. While this diversity offers a positive element to the climate, it also presents many challenges especially in assuring there is no separation of student populations.

Thames Elementary and The Arc Southeast Mississippi formed a partnership to create a positive learning environment for both groups. The partnership actually began in the 1980’s with approximately 12 individuals with disabilities and has continued to grow over the years in measures far beyond numbers. It has facilitated the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into recreational activities in the community with their peers. It also has created a more positive atmosphere at the school and helped build social and relationship skills through interagency collaboration.

Activities:
• Community-based field trips to help individuals with disabilities learn skills
• University Baptist Church donates school uniforms and hygiene products
• UBC members volunteer as reading tutors and continue to implement outdoors classroom by using the gardens.

Impacts:
• 91% of school staff felt The Arc created a warmer culture for teachers and assisted with budget constraints.
• Thames has been able to work on IEP goals using a variety of resource materials from The Arc; as a result, 95-100% students
with disabilities at Thames are on target to reach goals.
• 28% increase in parental involvement with parents of special education students.
• 3% increase in The Arc's involvement in after-school activities; 32% increase in post-school social activities