This week, we get advice from Amber Cassady, a senior at Ardrey Kell High. Amber is president of Friends Club, an organization that pairs students with and without special needs. She is in charge of leading and planning activities for the clubs 125 members. Amber plans to attend UNC Chapel Hill in the fall to major in business. She hopes to work for a nonprofit.
Q: Why did you join Friends Club?
I was inspired to help found this club by my younger brother, Corey, who has mild autism. Growing up, he did not have many friends because he didnt know how to approach them and vice versa. I figured that high school is such a meaningful experience in every adolescents life that the EC students at my school (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools uses the term Exceptional Children for students with special needs) should be able to look back on high school friendships and memories.
The Friends Club fosters relationships between EC and mainstream students. (Our) fun, interactive activities include tie-dying T-shirts, decorating pumpkins, unbirthday parties, luaus and school events Being a leader of this club is different from leading other organizations because working with EC students causes you to think about other factors, such as the atmosphere, noise level, wheelchair accessibility, etc.
Q: What is your most meaningful experience working in this club?
Watching the EC students grow and become more outgoing each year. It warms my heart to see the EC students wave or hug their buddies in the hallway. It truly makes their day to have a friendly interaction with a mainstream student! Also, I have loved seeing the mainstream students become more comfortable approaching and interacting with the EC students. I have had students come up to me and say that this club has helped them better understand people with learning disabilities.
Q: What other activities are you involved in?
Besides the Friends Club, I am heavily involved in Ardrey Kells student council. I played on the AK volleyball team for three years and participated in service clubs such as Interact and Key Club. I am part of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and Knights in Action. I also help coordinate a street feeding group for AK students to feed the homeless in downtown Charlotte. I am also an active member of the St. Francis United Methodist youth group (and) have a part-time job at The Jewel Box.
Q: How do you juggle all of these activities successfully?
I was born with a lot of spunk and drive, so for every task I take on, I want to do my best. . I am currently learning the lesson of delegating tasks: I used to try to do everything by myself, but I have realized that there are so many people out there willing to help me, and it makes my jobs a lot more enjoyable!
Q: To be considered wise, what must you know?
You must know that you dont know everything, so you must trust others to help you when you need it. One person cant change the world; it takes a team!
Q: What is a fun fact about yourself?
I am 4-foot-11! Im fun-sized!