Honors group strives to make a difference



By Chelsea Martin






Jayelee Dorris, left, with SOL Buddies officers Laura Rodriguez, Hannah Allen, Tyler Thompson, Julia
Maisel, Bridget Manning and Erin Wochner.

When you believe you can
make a difference, you
will. Whether it takes a
day, a month, a year or longer,
positive change can occur, even in
the face of challenges that stand in
the way of progress.
That’s the view of Jayelee
Dorris, a faculty member at Corona
del Sol High School who has guided
the CdS chapter of National Honor
Society for 12 years and SOL
Buddies for 15 years.
For the first time this year, she’s
added Holly Hope Foundation to
her list of sponsorships.
The honors group is designed
for highly motivated students who
display a good academic standing
and a desire to get involved in
their school and community. SOL
Buddies coordinates with students
with special needs through various
activities, fundraisers and events.
Enter Holly Hope Foundation,
which started last year and already
has taken off on a national level.
“Holly Hope started with a
couple of girls because a friend of
their family was diagnosed with
cancer,” Dorris said. “The family
was constantly stressed financially
and decided to start the foundation
for similar families that need the
This year the Tempe Union
High School District has an
advertising slogan circulating
called “I’m (IN)” that Dorris helped
to create. The purpose of the
campaign is to actively seek ways
to include our students, our school
and our community.
Dorris said all of the student
groups she sponsors share a
devotion to making their school,
and the world, better places.
This year the 220 students
involved with NHS are doing a
year-long project of their own
based on the district’s efforts to
accomplish such goals as promoting
inclusion and discouraging
intolerance, according to Dorris.
“I ran with this campaign
because I wanted these guys to
be able to reach out to each other
and build a community promoting
acceptance. I believe that just because the
kids are in special education does not mean
that they cannot be eligible to be a part of
NHS or homecoming.”
This is the first time Dorris has
coordinated a growing relationship between
the various clubs. The goal of the NHS
project is to raise awareness, promote
acceptance and abolish intolerance of
persons with special needs, not only
within the community but statewide and
eventually nationwide.
Tapping into the interest shown among
her SOL Buddies officers, that group is
working to actively promote acceptance and
educate anyone willing to take a moment to
Officers include Laura Rodriguez,
Hannah Allen, Tyler Thompson, Julia
Maisel, Bridget Manning and Erin
Wochner. Prior to this year’s project,
the NHS students were allowed to serve
at a food bank and be done with their
community service portion. But thanks
to the “abolish intolerance” project, the
NHS students are able to spend their time
with the special needs students working
on building projects, activities, events and
awareness, Dorris says.
This year at the NHS induction
ceremony last fall, five of the special needs
students were inducted because of their
outstanding academic eligibility. A few
of the SOL Buddies officers spoke at the
ceremony and explained the project and
what they will be accomplishing. Another
activity the officers decided to follow
through with was each taking a buddy to
homecoming and coordinating a booth at
the bonfire. The officers wanted to be able
to set an example for their peers.
“I want them to know that, at the end of
the day, they are truly making a difference,”
Dorris said.
“I’m grateful that these officers
were able to start this and watch it
grow, knowing they started something
amazing at our school. They are some
of the best officers I’ve ever had and the
accomplishments they’ve made are huge.”
The purpose of the project is to alleviate
ignorance barriers between people and
individuals with special needs. Although
the officers say they appreciate the
friendships they’ve made, the clubs and
activities involved and the overall progress
achieved, there are still obstacles to cope
“Getting people to make a commitment
to the club is a challenge,” Wochner said.
“At the beginning of the year there are
always so many people and it’s all great, but
by the end of the year there are only, like,
maybe 10 people.”
Another officer shared her thoughts on
certain obstacles for the club, noting it’s no
easy task to engage her peers.
“The biggest challenge is finding people
who actually care and have good intentions,
not just another thing to tack onto the
resume or for a college app,” Maisel said.
“We want to find the ones who want to
be a part of the change. But actually finding
people that are willing to commit long term
is rare.”
But the officers and Dorris insist they
won’t stop trying.
“Our society needs to realize that (those
in special-needs categories) are just people,
like anyone else—just like you and I,”
Rodriguez said.
Dorris’ initiative will continue until
people realize an individual with a disability
should be fully accepted into a classroom
and into the community.
“Special-education people should
get what they deserve, and that is to be
included and see themselves as important.”
Dorris said. “They sometimes sell
themselves short because they don’t feel
a part of anything. This project is huge to
take on, but I’m really hoping we can make
a difference.”
No need to point out that Dorris loves
what she does. Despite the indifference
that she continues to face on a daily basis,
Dorris keeps her head up. She focuses on
the positive.
“It enhances you as a person,” Dorris
said. “Every single day I go home and think,
‘Wow I just made that kid’s day and they
just made mine.’ What could be better than


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