The PEARLS Project:  Positive Exposure Ambassadors’ Real Life Stories

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This groundbreaking educational program invites K-12 students, teachers, and healthcare providers to learn about the real life experiences of individuals and their families living with genetic, physical, cognitive and behavioral differences.

Audience participants are introduced to a photo exhibition of people living with difference (PEARLS Ambassadors), which then comes alive, as the children, adults and families from the photographs, blog about their lives and experiences through a password protected, online forum.  The POSITIVE EXPOSURE team approves all posts.

As the audiences access the blogs, videos and images and ask questions of PEARLS Ambassadors, correlating units of  study, lesson plans and classroom projects are implemented.  Curriculum materials are available via an online archive while new ideas are always welcome.  Positive Exposure support staff works closely with schools/organizations to adapt the PEARLS Project to meet site-specific needs and invites sites to have their activities shared worldwide through the organizations online archive.

Whether used in the classroom with students or as a professional development tool, lives are enriched and changed as the audiences gain a deeper understanding and respect for human diversity.  Concurrently, the individuals and their families living with difference are empowered to become self-advocates and use their unique voices to foster positive change.

On June 22, 2011, The New York Times featured Positive Exposure, the Pearl’s Project and Ridgewood High School in an article entitled, “Learning Empathy by Looking Beyond Disabilities”.

In the article, Positive Exposure founder Rick Guidotti provided his perspective on the Pearl’s Project:  “Genetic conditions are depicted as images of sickness and sorrow — and it’s always a kid up against a wall in a doctor’s office.  The idea was to bring these gorgeous kids into a community that didn’t know them and create a more inclusive society.  It’s our responsibility to steady our gaze to see beauty, and not look away because we’re told not to stare.”

The article further captured the perspective of  Ridgewood High School principal, John A. Lorenz regarding the Pearl’s Project:  “The project teaches important lessons about tolerance as schools face an increase in bullying and serve more special education students than ever.”  Lorenz further explained, “This is what real learning is about.  It’s relevant, it’s meaningful and it’s fun.  Not one student said, ‘I wish I didn’t have to do this.’”

The article additionally reported the reflections of Ridgewood High School students including 15-year-old, Amanda, a ninth grader in a biology class.  As the article reported about Amanda:  “She asked Ashley, also 15, whether she was embarrassed to meet boys because she had muscular dystrophy and used a wheelchair.  Ashley replied no, that if boys saw only the wheelchair, that was their problem.  ‘I’m so happy for her that she can be so confident in herself,’ Amanda said.  ‘I envy that.’”

To cover the cost of printing, management of the program as well as shipping/handling, there is a $30 fee for the PEARLS Project.

If you are interested in learning more about the PEARLS Project and/or receiving the PEARLS Project, please contact:

Liz Grossman, Executive Director


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