It has been an exciting start of the year for Santa Monica High School’s Circle of Friends program. Circle of Friends, now in its eighth year on the high school’s campus, received an award at the Main Santa Monica Library on October 28. The City of Santa Monica’s Disability Commission recognized the program for its “commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in school and community life.” Circle of Friends was honored to receive the first of this new annual award.
Barbara Palilis founded the organization eight years ago, starting with twelve core students. Now over 280 members strong, Circle of Friends has long since become the largest organization on the Samohi campus. The members of Circle of Friends not only learn about the importance of inclusion in a high school setting, but also demonstrate the key values of understanding and acceptance of differences. They promote disability awareness, and have a great time doing so. A new member once remarked, “I never knew anything could be this rewarding and fun!”
As a growing organization, Circle of Friends hosts several fundraisers/activities throughout the year where disabled and non-disabled friends can interact with one another outside of school to celebrate holidays or simply to enjoy each other’s company. Encouraged by the success of the program in Santa Monica, director Barbara Palilis has recently widened the program’s “circle” to include two new chapters in the San Diego area. Palilis hopes “that the Circle of Friends format will spread nationwide so that other families can benefit the way ours have in Santa Monica.”