Embracing Diversity Onstage


Claudia Rosales, Staff Writer

In a community that thrives on diversity, Elkhart High School is proud to introduce a new theater program that embraces inclusion, celebrates individuality, and promotes collaboration.

Recently, Elkhart High School has introduced a new ‘United’ program to the community through an open-house play. These programs consist of bringing together neurodivergent and neurotypical students through specific activities. United Track and United Sound are some of the most notable clubs, with the newest addition being United Theater.

Mrs. Kristin Baker is Elkhart’s speech and theater teacher and leads the United Theater class. Because this was the first semester the class was available, United Theater held a small production for anyone intrigued by the new class; however, many are still unaware of what the class entails or what it promotes. Theater has a remarkable way of forging connections and building friendships. In the class, neurodivergent and neurotypical students work side by side, sharing laughter, struggles, and triumphs. Through rehearsals, workshops, and performances, they develop a bond based on mutual respect, acceptance, and a shared love for the arts. “Our end-of-the-semester play Better Together addressed these issues and was written by the students together. It showed the beauty of diversity and inclusion,” Mrs. Baker comments.

The class allows individuals to step into someone else’s shoes and experience the world from a different perspective. As Mrs. Baker explains, “One of the cool things about neurodivergent students is that they often have a confidence and natural joy that helps our neurotypical students learn how not to care what others think. We also had one of our nonverbal students who communicate with an assistive device use imaginative language for the first time in an improv game.” This new theater program takes that concept to the next level, breaking down the barriers that separate neurodivergent and neurotypical students. By combining their strengths and abilities, a collaborative environment where diversity is celebrated is created and everyone’s voice is heard.

Vanessa Lopez is a junior who was placed in the class and originally was unsure of what it entailed, but only after the first month, she was elated to have been apart of the new opportunity. “After the first couple of weeks, we got settled and comfortable with one another; the people are incredibly kind and accepting. I enjoyed the class very much and hope other people can experience it!” Lopez then goes on to describe some of the class projects: “We played games where we had to act and do projects that involved collaborating and also acting.”

The new theater program that brings together neurodivergent and neurotypical students is a testament to the school’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. By embracing different perspectives, celebrating unique talents, and fostering collaboration, this initiative enriches both the theater productions and the lives of the students involved. If interested in the class, mention it to a counselor and watch the EHS United Theater’s first production here!