It’s incredible to think that less than 12 months ago, four schools in Connecticut put their faith in Wingman to change their school culture and climate. That belief has been rewarded many times over and to date more than 1,500 students have explored social and emotional development areas as diverse as Grit & Perseverance, the Power of Words, the Meaning of Empathy and Accepting Differences.
Drawn to the flexible structure of the program, New Fairfield Middle School, City Hill in Naugatuck, Brownstone Intermediate in Portland and St. Joseph School in Meriden contributed their own vision and lessons needed to accomplish change in their communities. The unique framework of Wingman puts trained student leaders in the classroom engaging their peers through experiential activities – learning through doing and reflecting. As well as the beneficial aspects of Wingman for the whole school population, these student leaders have gained invaluable experience as they set their sights on high school and future careers. All the schools have taken Dylan’s story into their hearts; the six-year old boy with autism who needed everyone to be his Wingman so that he could successfully navigate life.
The impacts of Wingman have been felt beyond the school walls. As we reported earlier, the town of Naugatuck held community events that accept and celebrate children of all abilities, from Unified Sports to Autism Awareness, created by the Wingman team at City Hill. The PACK student leaders of New Fairfield adapted their own lesson plans to bring Wingman to the Meeting House Hill grade 3-5 school in the town.
The media and legislators have taken note. This great WNTH News 8 article showcased City Hill’s program, and St. Joseph was featured on ORTV. United States Senator Chris Murphy visited New Fairfield Middle School and his positive comments about Wingman were captured in this article by the Danbury News Times.
Already looking forward to the next academic year, these four founding schools will be joined by three new members of the League of Wingman in Connecticut. Suffield Middle School to the north, Gilmartin School in Waterbury and St. Ann Academy of Bridgeport began their student training programs in May and June to pave the way for their school wide program launch in the fall.
This summer will also see exciting developments for Wingman as Dylan’s Wings of Change partners with Sacred Heart University and Southern Connecticut State to create new lesson material and an entire module devoted to Elementary Schools. The latter will establish behavior norms for grades K-5 that will prepare them for deeper Wingman topics at middle school level. The Elementary program will introduce graduate students (both those focused on education and other subjects) as classroom leaders working with children in these grades.
What’s even more powerful is that Wingman is not just restricted to schools. Wingman for Clubs and Wingman for Dance (studios) are fully stand-alone modules that bring the philosophy of inclusion and community building to small groups with simple activities suited for competitive and recreational programs. The entire suite of Wingman offerings, and how to contact us can be found at www.wingmanleague.org
Wingman is made possible by the generosity of thousands of public donations to Dylan’s Wings of Change and the dedicated participants in our endurance events, for which we are continually grateful. Our goal is to increase our fundraising to expand the program further and take Wingman beyond the Connecticut state line to any school, club or studio wanting to inspire its children to go above and beyond for each other.