Pottstown Grad Too Good For Cap And Gown? Part II

In a follow-up to Evan Brandt’s excellent article about Pottstown High School senior Shawn Szydlowski, this Roy’s Rants exclusive uncovers another injustice against a Pottstown High School senior without the happy ending.

Like fellow classmate Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton is a graduating senior at Pottstown High School.  Paige Patton was a camp counselor at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Variety Club camp during June of 2009.  However, unlike Shawn Szydlowski, Paige Patton tried working with the camp rather than the school district to resolve the scheduling conflicts between school and camp activities.

PHS Graduation and Baccalaureate rehearsals were June 10th and June 11th with graduation scheduled for June 14th.  Camp orientation was scheduled for June 10th and 11th with camp running the week of June 12th through June 19th at the Variety Club’s Worcester Township site.

Graduating seniors were told if they missed practice, they could not walk for graduation.  Paige took this warning seriously so she and her family tried contacting the MDA Camp Coordinator to work something out but their calls were not returned.  Paige subsequently received a letter from the MDA stating her services as a camp counselor were not needed this year.

Paige formed a special bond with her camper last year.  The camper and her family specifically requested Paige again for this year!  Paige will also miss the camp graduation of another friend she made last summer because she is not allowed to attend camp.

Paige’s involvement with the MDA did not end with camp.  Paige and her family made four trips from Pottstown to the MDA Broomall Office and helped stuff 2500 fundraising envelopes.  Paige also held her own fundraiser at PHS.  She received permission to miss class so she could sit in the hall and sell shamrocks for $1.00.  Two gift baskets were made up and raffled off based on the shamrock sales.  For each shamrock purchase, the buyer received a ticket(s) that were entered into a raffle.  The winners received the gift baskets.  Paige and her family then made another trip to the MDA’s Broomall office to drop off the $125.00 she raised.

Paige will be attending Montgomery County Community College, West Campus this fall where she will begin studying to become a special education teacher.  The experience working with Muscular Dystrophy campers is related to what she will be studying in college.  It is a shame that someone who worked so hard to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association had to make a choice between graduation and volunteering as a camp counselor.  Furthermore, to be dismissed without even a return phone call and a curt letter is shameful.

I would suspect people are not lining up to be camp counselors for disabled children.  The school district and the camp need to be more flexible when working with students who are trying to give of themselves to help others.  No student should have to make the choice these two young women were faced with.  Sadly, Paige’s story does not have the happy ending that Shawn’s does.

Is this the kind of lesson we want to teach our young people?  If we try and “pay it forward” we get slapped in the face.  At the very least this young lady deserves an apology for the treatment she received from the camp and from the school district for making her follow their stringent rules.  The inflexibility of these two entities cost Paige the opportunity to be a camp counselor and denied that disabled camper the chance to spend another week with someone she and her family specifically requested.

Shame, shame, shame.