IncludeNYC logo

INCLUDEnyc Has the Big Picture

October 21, 2021
Rachel Demalderis
Community Voices
Headshot photo of high school teacher Rachel Demalderis

I’m a teacher at Metropolitan ELS High School in Forest Hills, Queens. I teach 9th and 10th grade special education. About 20 percent of our students have IEPs and we serve a diverse student body. 

I’ve been grateful for our school’s partnership with INCLUDEnyc’s High School Launch program. We’ve been collaborating for about three years now and INCLUDEnyc has become an indispensable resource to me and the teaching staff. 

Teachers do it all and our schedules are often full, so we appreciate INCLUDEnyc’s support. INCLUDEnyc educators are experts in transition services and have a wealth of resources, which we can then share with our students and their families. In the High School Launch program, students learn more about their IEP and I’ve seen them advocate for themselves more after their participation in the program. INCLUDEnyc also runs workshops for the families, so that they have tools to advocate too.

Even during the pandemic, the kids shared that the online sessions were engaging and helped them take a dive deep into who they are and their disabilities. After the program, students realize the IEP is a tool and no longer feel stigmatized. Students come to their IEP meeting more capable. They ask for supports and for what they need. There’s a tangible shift in their thinking — a confidence about themselves and their potential. I’ve seen students think more about their pathways after high school, whether it’s a vocational program or college. 

I would highly recommend High School Launch to other special education teachers. The INCLUDEnyc team holds knowledge of the whole system. They have the big picture about what students are entitled to in high school, college, and the workplace. Also, High School Launch is tailored specifically to the needs of our school—it’s not a one size fits all program. We’ve also referred students to Project Possibility to receive that support after high school graduation. We highly recommend that you reach out!

Rachel Demalderis is a teacher at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School and an INCLUDEnyc High School Launch partner.