Written by: Shelley Li, FCSN Voice Senior Youth Reporter
“Channeling hope, support, and awareness toward the special needs community” serves as the core mission of 16 FCSN clubs across California, each fully dedicated to supporting the special needs community. From introducing FCSN programs to students to increasing understanding of the special needs individuals in their communities, FCSN Clubs has grown from a tiny seed into a large family tree, extending its branches of inclusivity and love of neurodiversity to youth in schools and universities.
It all began in late 2019 when Founder of FCSN Clubs Isabella He decided to start the very first FCSN club at her high school, Mission San Jose High School (MSJ). “I had personally experienced so much growth at FCSN, and I really wanted to just expand the possibilities to give other students the same opportunity to connect with FCSN, and [also] since I had noticed that many FCSN programs were in need of more volunteers,” He said. After achieving all the steps in the challenging club formation process, including seeking advisors, talking to student government representatives, presenting to student council members, and more, He was finally granted approval to establish MSJ’s FCSN Club. With this initial success, FCSN Volunteer Manager Mannching Wang and FCSN Director of Volunteer Support Linmei Chiao reached out to He to work together in expanding the idea to more local schools, and right from the beginning, they were met with great enthusiasm and interest by student volunteers.
However, when starting their own school clubs, these volunteers faced the same arduous process of getting their club constitution approved as He — a process that He hoped she could use her own experiences to guide them through. She helped look over club constitutions, discussed potential questions of the student council, and shared personal resources like emails for club advisors and tentative club meeting plans that she used in the process. “It’s not always the easiest path to get the club approved, so I think that just being able to guide some of the clubs through that has been something that has been really great for me,” He said.
Through FCSN Clubs, more students in high school and college communities have learned and become involved in FCSN programs like the virtual 1:1 SNTutoring program. They’ve forged bonds with special needs individuals and spread awareness of neurodiversity to communities beyond FCSN. Individual clubs have hosted speaker talks, events like Irvington FCSN Neurodiversity Club’s inclusive Zoom concerts, book clubs, and even individual tutoring programs. During the past two years online, clubs have collaborated in joint sessions to invite speakers such as Siena Castellon, Dr. Heidi Feldman, and Dr. Linda Lotspeich. “Each club, especially the ones that are really pushing it and really having an impact [has truly made] an exponential impact … on the student body,” He said.
Although some clubs have struggled with a lack of involvement and uncertainty in what activities and events to host, He and other coordinators have always pointed them to the great initiatives that other fellow clubs have been planning. From organizing a whole Diversity Celebration week, in which the club could host a mix of activities, meetings, and tutoring programs throughout the week, to a simple book club, many clubs have worked hard to overcome their struggles with involvement and ramped up their activities since their beginning days.
In the future, He hopes to promote a unified community among FCSN clubs, with more cross club collaborations, involvement with volunteers across multiple schools, and more clubs being formed. She will also be handing the leading role to Erica Chiu, who as founder of UC Davis FCSN Club has continuously shined in her efforts to promote inclusivity and support the special needs community. “Introducing ideas of FCSN and the mission of FCSN to more students has been something that’s been really helpful since we’re able to get an increased awareness and understanding of the special needs community within the high school and college communities, [and which] will hopefully help the special needs community itself as well,” He said.
To learn more about how you can form your own FCSN club: https://www.notion.so/FCSN-School-Clubs-Homepage-cd968e5064a44b92906bb12ff1d763a7Or contact Isabella He at firstname.lastname@example.org