PDE Announces Free Mikayla’s Voice Program Opportunities (October 5, 2020)

On October 9, 2020, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy, released a PennLink memo to all LEAs titled 2020-21 Inclusive Programming Opportunities through Mikayla’s Voice announcing inclusive programming for the 2020-21 school year. When schools closed in March, Mikayla’s Voice reinvented each of their programs to allow remote delivery. Their inclusion books, assemblies, art projects, and new enrichment website can now be accessed from individual classrooms or homes. Free programs listed below are available for schools and will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Inclusion Assemblies: Until large group activities may resume, Mikayla’s Voice is well-prepared to remotely facilitate valuable discussion about inclusion and demonstrate children’s capacity for understanding, acceptance, and compassion. Virtual presentations will include all the elements of live assemblies. The remote assembly includes short video segments to enhance viewer experience, video and audio equipment, and an educational video conferencing platform to allow inclusion assemblies to be safe and effectively live streamed to as many as 500 classrooms or homes. Presenters will be joined by a student or young adult with a disability and share the book Our Friend Mikayla. Students can use live chat to ask any and all questions and will be invited to serve as Mikayla’s Voice in their school and community.

Wheels of Friendship®:  In a unique program developed and coordinated by Mikayla’s Voice, children paint not with brushes, but with the wheels of a wheelchair (or walker) and the paws (and tail) of a service dog.  Having started with a focus on the inclusion of people with physical disabilities, the program has expanded to represent additional disabilities. In this program, Mikayla’s Voice supplies 24 individual art “kits,” and facilitates a live virtual group art lesson. A video tutorial link is also provided so instruction can be revisited, if necessary. Finally, written directions, including photos, make it possible for students without computer or internet access to participate as well.

Mikayla’s Bookshelf: This is a newly created, enrichment website providing lessons for teachers and schools to introduce or reinforce Mikayla’s Voice message and mission with their students. Mikayla’s Bookshelf includes all three of their books in a fun, page turning electronic format, so they may be shared in every classroom or home, as needed. To ensure equity for all, books can be sent home for students who do not have adapted technology to access a website, and all three are available as braille copies. These books are the foundation for enrichment lessons related to the themes of inclusion, kindness, and friendship, each aligned to PA state standards, and addressing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies. They include Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies, with direct links to supplemental support information such as: text to speech, speech to text, word banks, passive assistance, and hand under hand, with further technical assistance if required. All lessons and supports are available in printable .pdf versions so teachers may share with families who might not have computer and/or internet access.

 Participating schools are asked to help with pre and post data collection to measure the global quality of the programs and their ability to improve school culture and community.  Mikayla’s Voice has partnered with researchers at Lehigh University as part of our ongoing program assessment for improvement and replication.

 Interested schools can contact Rita Cheskiewicz, Executive Director at 570-690-7113 or rita@mikaylasvoice.org or Kimberly Resh, Program Director, at 610-746-2324 or kim@mikaylasvoice.org to participate in Mikayla’s Voice programming. 

 Mikayla’s Voice website can be found at www.mikaylasvoice.org.