Project Unify helps teens find common ground - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Project Unify helps teens find common ground

Untangling a human knot was one of several team building exercises during the Project Unify forum. Untangling a human knot was one of several team building exercises during the Project Unify forum.

Any time you bring 300 students together for a workshop, you know it's probably a big deal. For Callie Namminga, it's a chance to hang out with her Best Buddy, Ashley Ford.

"We really don't have any classes together and we can really get to know our Buddies and do different activities and work through things together," said Callie Namminga, a freshman at East.

Namminga is taking part in Project Unify. The program puts special education students together with regular ed students for a series of team-building exercises.

"They don't see the differences in each other as much as they see how they're all alike and like the same things as teenagers," said Michelle Morgan, special education teacher at East High School.

It's the fifth year for the project in Sioux City, and the 185th Air Refueling Wing is helping out for the first time.

"How to work together as a team, how to break down barriers of communication, to accomplish things," said Sr. Master Sergeant TJ Fennell of the 185th Air Refueling Wing.

Throughout the day, students perform tasks that can only be done by working with others.

"That you have to pull the rope and make sure that you don't drop the thing," said Ashley Ford, a junior at East High.

"If people didn't pull enough or do their share of the work, it was harder to do it," said Namminga.

Students also acted out different bullying scenarios for the group to give children clear choices about how to respond when bullies mistreat their friends.

"At first, it's uncomfortable, because I'm not a mean person," said Rogelio Serrano, a senior at West High School. "They see it happen. So, I feel like some people are just too shy to say something, but I think if it came down to it, they would."

Scenarios dealt with being new to school, cyber bullying, and even a blind student. Several solutions brought in a teacher or older friend for help. And for the teachers, the real treat comes for the students afterwards.

"Sometimes they sit at lunch with each other. They'll start to do things after school. They'll really start to develop some friendships and relationships after today," said Morgan.

KTIV's Kristie VerMulm hosted the kickoff portion of the event.

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