Simply Kismet

State House
Trenton, New Jersey
By Marion Touvel [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
On June 21, 2012, an honorary ceremony at the New Jersey State House brought me to Trenton. Majority Leader of the Assembly Louis Greenwald presented a group of mentally handicapped adults with a proclamation.

Known as the Go Team, which stands for "Get Out!", these adults advocate for the closure of Developmental Centers in New Jersey. Their efforts to promote public awareness, drive discussion and debate, and stimulate social change garnered this special recognition.

About four months earlier, in the middle of winter, I first learned about the Go Team. Just as I had not previously heard about this dynamic group, I was also unaware of the political issues surrounding the closure of  Developmental Centers here. All that changed, however, when a volunteer opportunity came to my attention.

One of the Go Team sponsors, Ronnie had contacted my club, the Moorestown Area Toastmasters club. Ronnie sought Toastmasters to coach the Go Team in public speaking. With discussions already underway between the Go Team and government officials about an honorary ceremony (i.e. the one that ultimately occurred on June 21), Ronnie wanted to prepare the Go Team advocates to speak publicly on the occasion.

To say weighing the different aspects of this opportunity took no time may be slightly inaccurate—but only slightly. It is absolutely fair, however, to say it took next to no time. During a previous chapter of my life, I earned a Masters of Science in Education. Although I had aspired to teach special education, other professional pursuits took a front seat. Even so, I remembered certain fundamentals of education.

From an objective perspective, for example, the ability to learn requires the ability to imitate behaviors. Additionally, learning is within every individual's ability. Thus, the educator's task in simple terms is to model behaviors, and to reinforce the imitation of those behaviors. The student demonstrates mastery by consistently and correctly performing the target behaviors. Educational theory, however, was far from the heart of my decision here.

It was the opportunity to coach these mentally handicapped adults in public speaking that resonated strongly with me. This confluence of circumstances must have been, in my personal opinion, more than serendipity. It was simply kismet.