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Area high school students focus on disability awareness through communications campaigns

November 30, 2009

Sara Miller
(315) 443-9038

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, New York State Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-North Syracuse) will recognize local high school students for their efforts to combat the stigma of mental, mobility, developmental and sensory disabilities, and change perceptions of disability rights among young people. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (Newhouse 3, Room 434).

High school students from the Cicero-North Syracuse, Fayetteville-Manlius, Lafayette and Liverpool districts have created communications campaigns to promote disability rights awareness as part of a challenge Stirpe announced in September. The objective of the Disability Rights: 2009 Communications Campaign Contest was to design a public education campaign that leads to positive attitude changes concerning people with disabilities and promotes understanding of the struggles people with disabilities face in everyday life. Nine teams and individuals designed and submitted multimedia marketing campaigns utilizing both traditional media and social media tools.

Participating high schools were supported in their efforts by Clear Channel Syracuse, SU’s Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) and the Newhouse School’s advertising department.

On Dec. 1, Stirpe will recognize all teams and individuals for their contributions and present awards to the first- and second-place teams. The contest offered a hands-on learning experience in disability rights and marketing for the students and $3,500 in prize money for the winning schools ($2,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place) to be used for purposes related to increasing understanding of disability among young people, as well as assistance in disseminating the student campaigns. The winning marketing campaigns will also be used by local media as a public education campaign to promote positive attitude changes concerning people with disabilities.

“I am so pleased that students from four school districts within the 121st Assembly District decided to participate in this important contest to create a campaign to combat the stigma of disabilities,” says Stirpe. “There’s nothing more hurtful for parents than to see their child being ignored by their peers. This is something that parents of children with disabilities experience all too often. I believe that communication campaigns such as these will go a long way in facilitating important conversation that will promote positive changes in people’s attitudes. Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute deserves much recognition in promoting this important issue. ”

Stirpe has served on the board of directors of Familycapped, a nonprofit organization composed of parents of children with multiple disabilities, formed to expand programs for children with disabilities in Central New York. He was directly involved in helping raise more than $1 million to build Casey’s Place, a respite home for families caring for children with disabilities.

Joining Stirpe in recognizing the students will be Eric F. Spina, SU vice chancellor and provost; Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School; Eve Hill, senior vice president of BBI; Brian McLane, executive director of BBI; and Joel Delmonico, vice president/market manager of Clear Channel Syracuse.

“The judging was very difficult,” says Hill, who was among the contest judges. “All the entries showed a real understanding of the attitudinal barriers people with disabilities face and a commitment to equality. These entries show, more than anything, that the disability rights movement really is having an effect on public attitudes, particularly among young people.”

The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University is a leading research, community development and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the civic, economic and social participation of people with disabilities worldwide. For more information, visit http://bbi.syr.edu/projects/disability-rights-campaign. The winning entries will be posted following the awards event.

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