Manhattan High School’s Interpersonal Skills class shines a spotlight on inclusion

All IPS students come out onstage at the end of the talent show. The talent show raised money for No Stone Unturned therapeutic learning center. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media)

Manhattan’s Got Talent, a student-led show where Manhattan High School students of all abilities showcase their skills onstage, took place on March 3.

Susan B. Anthony Middle School started the tradition. This is the second year Manhattan High has hosted the event and changed the show to promote inclusion at MHS, Jamiee Schnee, Interpersonal Skills teacher, said.

“Something we had established bringing it here from the middle school was rebranding it to become more inclusive and representative of people at MHS,”  Schnee said. “We really want to drive that point home of inclusion and acceptance for all the students at MHS no matter what.”

Manhattan’s Got Talent is an opportunity for students of all abilities and backgrounds to shine, even if they have no experience, Schnee said.

“How many people get to pull a curtain backstage, put together a music list, or do a program for a show?” Schnee said. “We wanted to give opportunities to people to show off the skills that they already have and to give people the chance to figure out skills they didn’t know they had.”

Students in her Interpersonal Skills class are responsible for hosting the show, Schnee said.

“Mrs. Jung and I took care of setting up the date, the place and all of that, but everything else has been completely run by members of our class,” Schnee said.

Schnee said this year, the talent show was led by over 40 students who took on various responsibilities including lights, sound and program design.

“We each have a part whether that’s backstage, front stage or being an MC,”  Tymir Chatman, senior in Schnee’s Interpersonal Skills class, said.

Alongside Chatman, Nathan Morrow, MHS senior, helped coordinate the event.

“It was kind of chaotic,” Morrow said. “It’s definitely a process. It takes a lot more than I first thought because I thought you just get people and put on a talent show, but there’s a lot more that goes into it.”

Schnee said this relates to the focus of her Interpersonal Skills class where seniors and students with disabilities work together to spread their message of inclusivity.

“We learn about disabilities, how society views disabilities and how we can change mindsets and be more open about being inclusive,” Schnee said.

Morrow said his greatest take away from Schnee’s class is how rewarding it is to include everyone, no matter their differences.

“It’s very nice to have a mixed pool of personalities and stories,” Morrow said. “It’s also very educational to be in a class where you can hear all of these different lives and stories that are very different from your own.”

Beyond the classroom, Chatman said the talent show has helped him understand the importance of inclusion.

“I’ve learned to include everyone, even if they have disabilities or anything like that,” Chatman said. “It’s been cool just to meet different people from different grades and other people I wouldn’t normally talk to.”

In the future, Schnee hopes to continue Manhattan’s Got Talent and spread a larger message about the difference diversity and kindness can make within education.

“We can be more inclusive of others even just through small acts like saying hello to people, eating lunch with somebody you’ve never met, complimenting people or showing kindness,” Schnee said. “Those are just little steps we can make as a school so we can all create a culture that is supportive of everyone no matter what.”