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Girl Scout is breaking down barriers

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When contemplating a project to pursue for her Gold Award, Katherine Zammit said she recalled the advice she received from her scout leaders — choose a topic that inspires you. Immediately, she thought of her brother.

Throughout the summer, Katherine hosted classes on Friday evenings for children who require special needs, each of which culminated with a mini talent show to showcase the gifts of each child.

The classes also aimed to help the children meet new friends, and at the same time, break down barriers that can often exist in schools between children who require special needs and those who are typically developing.

It’s a disconnect that exists, Katherine said, “Only because people don’t know. They have this broad term in their head about special needs. They don’t take the time to know the person and see what they can do.”

Katherine, 15, will be a junior at East Meadow High School when schools reopen next month. She began her scouting career as a Daisy Scout at 4-years-old, and then joined a Parkway Elementary School troop. She is now in Troop 1440.

Her brother, David, 14, a recent graduate of W.T. Clarke Middle School, has high-functioning attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But he is extremely creative and is often designing arts and crafts and new inventions around their East Meadow home. Growing up with David, as well as her time spent volunteering at St. Raphael’s religious education classes for children with special needs, has given her a keen ability to relate with children who face developmental challenges, said her mother, Laurie.

And when Katherine hosted the classes throughout the summer, most of which took place in her own home, she said the learning went both ways. “They taught me stuff that I didn’t know,” she said. “We were learning from each other.”

Each session highlighted a certain child, who would explain their talent in order to teach the others about it. One child had a fascination with outer space. Another was skilled at measurement and math. One sang, and another built his own computer software. David meanwhile, showed off his origami skills. The spectators, in turn, would write about their experiences during each class.

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