Group helps schools be more inclusive of students with disabilities

  • Lauren Schrero

    Lauren Schrero

Updated 3/7/2021 8:54 AM

A Chicago-based nonprofit providing empathy and disability inclusion programs to schools aims to broaden its reach in the suburbs.

The Nora Project has programs running in 50 schools across the Chicago region, including several in the Northwest and West suburbs.


"Right now, we are onboarding new schools for next year," said Lauren Schrero, co-founder and executive director. "A lot of schools are looking at creating solutions for rebuilding communities (post-pandemic). We just want to make sure they are thinking about kids with disabilities."

The group provides 20 hours of training to educators on best practices for teaching a diverse group of learners. The curriculum includes emotional literacy for young learners, a storyteller project for fourth- and fifth-graders who create a film about the value of inclusion, and a "STEMpathy club" for middle and high school students who assess the inclusiveness of their school, identify problems and offer solutions.

"Schools are still highly segregated," especially when it comes to students with autism, intellectual and emotional disabilities, Schrero said. "This (curriculum) is for all students with and without disabilities."

Districts must sign up by June 1 and send representatives to a summer training camp. Schools with more than two-thirds of students eligible for free and reduced lunch can participate in the training and receive curriculum and classroom materials for free.

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Anti-racism awareness

A free virtual conference to raise anti-racism awareness for those working with children and families will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 12.

"The Change That Begins With Me" conference will focus on systemic racism as a barrier to success and integrating anti-racist practices. It is hosted by the Fox Valley United Way, Addison Early Childhood Collaboration, and the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning. It is open to community partners in early care and education, family and community support, medicine and health, city and county services, government, oversight, policymakers, and business owners.

Speakers are: Dr. Mariana Glusman, president of the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine; Siemone Smith, who works on infant mental health with a focus on trauma-informed practices; and Crystal Elliott-O'Connor, an early childhood educator and trainer.

View the event live on Facebook:

Muslim women leaders

The Council of Islamic Relations of Greater Chicago will host a series of conversations with Muslim women leaders every Sunday starting 2 p.m. Sunday through March 28.


Panel discussions will feature prominent women from throughout the Chicago area representing business, religious institutions, nonprofits and other industries.

Today's speakers are: Raheela Gill Anwar, president and CEO at Group 360 Consulting in Northbrook; Aneesa Muthana, president and co-owner of Pioneer Service of Addison; Iqra Azhar, founder of Slay Collective; Hira Umer, founder of Scrumptious by Hira bakery in Lombard; Imani Muhammad, founder of Imani's Original Bean Pies and Fine Foods in Chicago; Yvonne Maffei, founder of My Halal Kitchen food blog; Dr. Constance Shabazz, president and owner of Health Resources Consultants; and Silvia Morales of Refined Accounting Associates.

The initiative is part of CIOGC's yearlong diversity, equity and inclusion campaign launching this month. Registration opens every Thursday. To sign up for the webinars visit

Mandela exhibit

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie is hosting a special exhibition depicting South African leader Nelson Mandela's anti-apartheid struggle.

"Mandela: Struggle for Freedom" runs through Sept. 12. It includes original artifacts and a replica of the 8-foot by 7-foot jail cell where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison before being released at age 71. Visitors will have an immersive experience in a multimedia theater with projections telling stories. Several panel discussions are scheduled through April 22.

Mandela became the face of a global movement against racial injustice. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and became South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994.

Children and students can visit the exhibition for free during the spring break weeks falling March 27 through April 11. Virtual student field trips and adult group tours are available through registration. For more information and a schedule of panel discussions, visit

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