10th Anniversary...2005 to 2015

New Milestones
By Ruth Punt,
CoF Lead Program Facilitator
Hello Friends,  MESSAGE Ruth Punt
As the Lead Program Facilitator for Circle of Friends, I am so happy to be involved with bringing our program to school districts around the nation. Working with such dedicated professionals has been so inspiring and such a joy!  Last spring and early fall, CoF has and is launching approximately 25 new chapters in
Amador USD, Imperial Valley SELPA, Pocahontas (AK), Los Angeles USD, and Saugus USD.  With these new schools, that brings the total of CoF chapters created to nearly 200, positively impacting over 65,000 students! Together, we are advancing the understanding and acceptance of differences while breaking down stereotypes and decreasing bullying on school campuses and within communities.
Here are a few ways our organization has grown over the past year. 
  • We recruited our first National School Inclusion Sponsor, Hallmark Channel.  We just announced our partnership in exciting ways in the media and social media.  All chapters should have received their new CoF T-shirts with our new CoF logo.
  • We expanded our Advisory Board with three new members, bringing added knowledge and expertise that will strengthen our efforts. 
  • We hired  two new Program Facilitators, Megan Long and Judy Franklin, in order to partner with more districts. We also hired a Development Coordinator, Linda Birch, who is working to increase CoF's communication and social media efforts. Please "like" CoF on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
  • We are planning our first Inclusion Conference for CoF Advisors, to be hosted in Santa Monica on Nov. 6th.  
As CoF becomes a stronger and more established organization, we are able to provide inclusion and
prevent bullying for many more students on a grander scale to make our world a better place.   I am honored to be part of a movement that believes that everyone matters...that everyone makes a difference...and that everyone deserves understanding, acceptance, and friendship.
Wishing each of you a wonderful year of growth, caring, and love!



Join us on
November 6, 2015

for the first-ever

"Circle of Friends Inclusion Conference"

Santa Monica Bay
Woman's Club

Register online at Eventbrite

or to pay by check, download, complete and mail the form from this LINK
For more information, email

Santa Monica
Pocahontas Schools Lead the Way in Social Inclusion
By Sara MartinSCHOOL
Special Education Coordinator, Pocahontas School District  and CoF Advisor
Making new CoF pals in Arkansas -- For more pictures of Circle of Friends in Pocahontas School District visit our Facebook photos by clicking on this LINK 
Students of all abilities are excited about Circle of Friends (CoF) at Pocahontas School District. We are a rural school district in Arkansas with three participating schools. Our district was fortunate to welcome Barbara Palilis to our campuses in September to introduce the program to our students. The response has been tremendous. In just a few weeks since Barbara's visit over 300  students in 3rd through 12th grades have submitted CoF applications. We have an opportunity to build circles around 40 students with disabilities in our first year. 
Since beginning our initial wave of lunch circles, we are seeing many positive changes on our campuses. It has been wonderful to observe the effect CoF is already having upon our student body and school campuses.  Peers are seeking out opportunities to include students with special needs in ways that may have been overlooked in the past.

Our students with disabilities are more confident and their enthusiasm about CoF has been contagious in our community. So many of our non-disabled students have emerged as leaders that we are now incorporating committees in addition to our student officer board at the high school.

Pocahontas School District CoF Advisors report that the time they spend supervising lunch circles can be "the brightest spot" in their day. Most importantly, it is obvious that many genuine friendships are developing as a result of CoF. All students thrive in this environment which is why the program continues to bloom in our schools.
As we continue our first year of implementation, we look forward to growing and learning from other chapters. As part of the new out-of-state model we are piloting, a team of our Advisors will travel to Los Angeles to meet with experienced CoF advisors and visit established CoF programs. We could not be more happy about this opportunity! If you would like to connect with us to share ideas and support, please follow @Pocahontas_CoF on Twitter
Hallmark Channel is a National Sponsor of our School Inclusion Program. Their generous support will help us provide inclusion and build genuine friendships for students with and without disabilities on school campuses nationwide. Our gratitude to everyone at Hallmark Channelwhich is dedicated to helping people celebrate life's special moments.
By Carol Conley and Michelle Coane
Stockton Unified School District
Victoria Franco, a Circle of Friends student at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, did an amazing job speaking in front of 130 California SELPA (Special Education Language Plan Area) Directors at their statewide meeting earlier this year. Victoria spoke about herself, her personal experiences, her achievements, and also about Cesar Chavez High School and the culture of inclusion that exists on campus. She highlighted the Circle of Friends program as being a key part to the Chavez culture that provides acceptance to students with disabilities.

Victoria's presentation was a great experience for her and will only add to her long list of achievements. It was also a good opportunity to share a success story from the Stockton Unified School District and to highlight the positive things that are going on at Cesar Chavez High School.
Bullying and Students with Special Needs
Source: stopbullying.gov

October is National Anti-Bullying Month.  Children with physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, and sensory disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers. Any number of factors- physical vulnerability, social skill challenges, or intolerant environments- may increase their risk.
Students who are bullied are more likely to have depression and anxiety, health complaints, and decreased academic achievement. They are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.

If you believe a student with special needs is being bullied: 

* Be supportive of the child and encourage him or her to describe who was involved and how and where the bullying happened. Be sure to tell the child that it is not his or her fault and that nobody deserves to be bullied or harassed. 

* Ask the child specific questions about his or her friendships. Be aware of signs of bullying, even if the child doesn't call it that. Children with disabilities do not always realize they are being bullied. They may, for example, believe that they have a new friend although this "friend" is making fun of them. 

* Be persistent. Talk regularly with the child and with school staff to see whether the behavior has stopped.

For more information or resources, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/special-needs/

By Viki Walaskay
CoF Parent, Bainbridge Island School District
Two years ago Bainbridge Island School District adopted an inclusion program called Circle of Friends (CoF). It is a program that is meant to help kids with different abilities become a part of their school life by having peers within the school engage these kids in a meaningful way and on a regular basis....
PARENTLast night there was a CoF celebration at my child's middle school. I had no idea how many kids are participating in this program district-wide because some schools have embraced it more successfully than others, but frankly, I had no clue. I walked in the gym and it was absolutely packed. So many tables and every one of them was full. 

Many of the kids walked up on stage to say what CoF meant to them and it was beautiful, sincere and heartfelt
Every child who participated in the program got something meaningful back. You could see it in their faces. You could hear it in their voices, and most importantly, you could see the real friendships that had developed between these children. 

In this district we focus so intently on Academic Achievement, on getting into the right schools, on taking the right courses and getting the highest grades. But what do we have when it's done? We have kids who define success by what grades and test scores they have.

Circle of Friends is so important because it helps show our kids that success is more than just grades, it's also how we treat our peers and others around us. This program shows our children how important it is to make meaningful connections. It tells them with our actions that every member of our community is an important and valued member and worth our time.

Changing the Face of Beauty
Gap Kids made history this summer by hiring their first ever model with Down Syndrome. Nine-year-old Kayla Kosmalski joined 13 other children on the catwalk, four of which have a disability, in Miami to launch Ellen DeGeneres' new clothing line, 'ED' for Gap Kids. 

The event was arranged by Changing the Face of Beauty, an organization advocating the equal representation of people with disabilities in advertising and media. It seems, finally, the fashion industry is taking steps to include a more diverse range of models. 

Changing The Face Of Beauty launched a new campaign with a children's shoe company, starring a four-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, in a bid to challenge what "beauty" means.


We hope you've enjoyed our Fall 2015 Newsletter!

Circle of Friends wishes our students and program advisors,
from coast to coast, a brilliant new school year filled with friendship. 

Want to be featured in our next newsletter?  Email [email protected] with your stories.  We look forward to hearing from you.
Circle of Friends ~ The Path to Inclusion
A Project of Community Partners, 501(c)(3), Tax ID # 95-4302067
11965 Venice Blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA  90066
Voice: (310) 312-6600, www.CircleoFriends.org
Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.