Video Documents How a 12-Year-Old Transformed His School

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A short video documentary about how a West Michigan Christian school has rallied around a student with special needs has become a hit on the Internet.

“Including Isaac,” a 14-minute video produced by the Kala Project, tells the story of Isaac P., a 12-year-old student at Byron Center (Mich.) Christian School. Isaac has a rare progressive disease known as spinal muscular atrophy.

The video shows members of Isaac’s family, his friends, school officials, and folks from Christian Learning Center, which works with schools to provide assistance to students with special needs. It documents how the school, despite some initial misgivings, embraced Isaac and made him part of the school community from the time he began attending Byron Center Christian as a 4-year-old preschool student.

“I’ve been intrigued with the powerful story behind BCCS and their commitment to create a community that enfolds, embraces, and includes Isaac and other kids with disability,” said Phil Stegink, director of educational services at CLC and an assistant professor of education at Calvin College. “They do it really well there.”

Representatives from CLC contacted the Kala Project about a year ago to see if they might have an interest in sharing Isaac’s story as an example of inclusive education that could spread to other schools. Kyle Venhousen, director of the Kala Project, quickly embraced the idea.

“We want to highlight stories that have the sense of beauty and good behind them,” said Venhousen, who graduated in May from Calvin College with a double major in business marketing and psychology.

Some of Isaac’s friends are interviewed in the video. Deb P., Isaac’s mother, said the experience of having Isaac as their friend is shaping student attitudes toward people with special needs.

“Kids with special needs don’t seem unusual to them because they’ve had that experience (with Isaac),” she said.

Isaac and his family are members of Ivanrest Christian Reformed Church in Grandville, Mich.

 The video has had more than 10,000 views in the three months since it was released, Venhousen said.

About the Author

Greg Chandler is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.