Friday, May 20, 2011

WHERE'S ELIZA? Awareness Campaign Launched

The WHERE'S ELIZA? awareness campaign is being launched to unite those interested in helping Eliza Schaaf follow her dream to be a college student and learn alongside her age peers and to raise awareness about the importance and mutual benefits of allowing students with intellectual disabilities access to learning in post secondary educational settings. The campaign simply involves being aware of Eliza's story and wearing a wristband or button to show your support that students with intellectual disabilities should have access to a college experience too.

HOW DO I GET MY BUTTON OR WRISTBAND? Buttons and wristbands are available at the Green Springs Inn as well as the Greenleaf Restaurant and Papa Murphy's in Ashland.
WHERE IS ELIZA NOW? Since being denied access to auditing classes at SOU, Eliza has remained disappointed and maintains a steady hope that some day soon she will again be allowed the opportunity to be a student at SOU. In the meantime, she is starting to look at other colleges
but struggles with the elements of having to be so far from home. At the moment, she is spending time at home, working at the Green Springs Inn a few hours a week, creating some ceramics art at the Ashland Art Center, volunteering and working with a mentor to learn how to teach reading to young children. In early March Ruby, James, Vivi and Bobby - all film major students at Chapman University - showed up in her life. 3 weekends and 8 days of filming culminated in the production of a 16+ minute documentary on Eliza. The documentary, titled Hold My Hand, has been nominated for a Cecil Award and will be screened in Ashland on June 1st from 6:00pm -8:00pm as part of a community forum with speakers, including Eliza, a slideshow and display of some of Eliza's art and a panel discussion with Q & A from the audience. The very real and positive result of her experience has been the friendships she has developed with the Chapman students and several SOU students who have seen and helped Eliza cope with the rejection she still feels.
IS ELIZA'S DREAM CRAZY? Not according to the more than 250 Colleges and Universities throughout the country who now offer access to higher education learning on their campuses. The best resource in this rapidly growing field is who will be coming out with a full length documentary on why having students like Eliza participating in classes and in campus life is mutually beneficial for everyone. The trailer for the documentary can be viewed at: Another informative 11 min. film about a successful inclusive initiative in Massachusetts can be viewed at:
WHAT DOES ELIZA WANT FROM HER COLLEGE EXPERIENCE? Eliza is looking for a community of learners who, like she, are wishing to further their knowledge and be offered the chance, in a guided setting, to gain independence, learn self determination and gather skills for better job opportunities. She wants to find peers who care about her and who want to be her friends. She wants to further her education by participating in classes as an auditing student in particular subjects that are of personal interest to her. She wants to belong; be a student; spend time studying, going to classes and participating in clubs, recreation and social events with friends. She wants to be able to explore her feelings in friendship circles, live with other students, be interdependent rather than independent. She wants to have exposure to all that college life offers and understands that her social shyness and different abilities necessitate her need and desire to work with and have access to peer mentors who can help her learn new things in and out of class and teach them what it's like to have Down syndrome.
WHY IS INCLUDING ELIZA BENEFICIAL FOR CURRENT SOU STUDENTS? Diversity is all around us and SOU students will be going into many fields of work – education, medical, social services, business and parenting – that will almost certainly bring them in contact with people with intellectual disabilities. Providing students an opportunity to work with, mentor and attend classes with these students helps build understanding of differences and similarities. It enables students to accept and appreciate diversity and recognize the importance of learning about others for their professional careers and for personal involvement in their communities. It shows that we value an individual’s right to self determine their own education in a setting where mutual respect for learning and growth can flourish. Eliza’s quiet determination, strong work ethic and desire to learn were & are an inspiration to her ceramics class peers and offer a window into a difference they have not experienced - spurring broader thinking, compassion and enhanced learning for all.
§ Show your support by wearing your WHERE’S ELIZA? button or wristband and share Eliza's story with your friends.
§ Come to the community forum and screening of Eliza’s documentary – ‘Hold My Hand’ on June 1st 6:00-8:00 at the Ashland High School Mountain Avenue Theater and join in the panel discussion exploring ways to include students with intellectual disabilities in post secondary education.
§ Join local efforts to develop a peer mentor program at SOU and area high schools that help make inclusive education work.
§ Serve on a task force to help research and develop a program for students with intellectual disabilities for SOU and other Oregon Universities.
§ Join our email list to receive information about events, meetings and discussions on creating post secondary options for students with intellectual disabilities.
§ Spend time with Eliza. Become her friend and volunteer to be a peer mentor to Eliza working with her in a variety of settings - clubs, recreation, shared housing, social activities and classes. Approach SOU professors in your major to see about receiving practicum experience and credit for hours volunteered.
Those interested in any of these options should contact Mollie Mustoe at, Eliza Schaaf at or Deb Evans at

1 comment:

  1. The first minute or two of Hold my Hand are among the film's most moving. I only got into it when Eliza was talking to Smokey, and did not see/hear the initial parts.

    The draft horse was very moving. (and if you have regularly looked at Eliza's presentations, the horse is mentioned too).

    And so were the home videos: one from 1996, and the other with the three Schaafs jumping on the trampoline.

    Also Deb and Eliza's talk about inclusion and exclusion was not to be missed.

    "A twenty-year-old girl" out in the snow.

    (And the part where Eliza said, "I'm not ready to fly on my own," and reflected on her brother going out on a plane).

    Subtitles were well-used.

    If I have a criticism, I think the film fizzled out at the end.

    There were some great scenes with Eliza in the Ashland community studio working on the ducks.

    And the best part was "I like having you in the class".

    (It was also fantastic to see Eliza in the orange/pink dress in the audience when the panel discussion was on).

    Masterly and outstanding work from the Chapman University students who were involved.

    (I also enjoyed the film about Rosa, Enrolled [lots of compare and contrast with Hold my Hand, if you wanted to go there] and The Modern Man. The two environmental films were good, and I enjoyed Joyce as a quiet achievement. Thinking of Salton Soul which came immediately before Hold my Hand: that was an exuberant documentary!)