Lincoln Park Student Takes Chicago by Storm With Campaign Launch

John Gross Co-Editor-in-Chief I went to middle school with Griffen Saul. Perhaps in a few years when I tell people that, it’ll be the same as saying I went to middle school with Malala or Al Gore or, who knows, maybe even Gandhi; the way I see it, Saul is poised to be the country’s (or the world’s) next great activist. Just last month, on December 2—the day before The International Day for People With Disabilities—Saul launched the campaign for his non-profit organization We Are Able. With a mission to “empower youth with disabilities and their families to better improve the quality of their lives,” Saul partnered with Chicagoland high schools to join in on a pledge to “live a day in the life of someone with a disability.” Over 300 students from Whitney Young Magnet High School, Lane Tech College Prep, Lincoln Park High School, Steinmetz College Prep, University of Chicago Lab School, Wells Community Academy High School, and Francis Parker felt inspired by Saul’s mission and took part in the activity. “The primary goal is for everyone in our community to understand what it’s like to have a disability and to learn proper disability etiquette,” said Saul in an interview on Fox 32 the day of the campaign activity. “Students can choose to wear ocular impairments to understand what it’s like to have an ocular disability, a face mask to simulate muteness, earplugs to simulate deafness, or tie one arm to their body to simulate various physical impairments.” Perhaps most important, though, and truest to the mission of We Are Able, is the pledge that students took to learn proper disability etiquette, beyond just the two-day simulation. “A big example of etiquette when it comes to people with disabilities is looking directly at them when you’re talking to them, not their aid,” said Saul. Moreover, it’s important not to treat a person with a disability as a charity case, but to interact with them like you would a friend. But Saul did not simply pull this inspirational non-profit out of thin air; in fact, the seeds for activism were planted in him when he was just a kid. “We Are Able really is a tribute to my father,” Saul said about the impetus for his non-profit. Growing up, Saul’s father, Brad, suffered from advanced-staged Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s central nervous system, which, in its most extreme form, leads to the general deterioration of all bodily functions. On December 4th, 2015 Brad, aged 55, died tragically of pneumonia, the MS rendering his immune system helpless. I had the pleasure of knowing Brad well. I would go to the Sauls’ house often and get in deep conversations with him, particularly about baseball or fantasy football. His level of intellect was remarkable as was his commitment to bettering the lives of those with disabilities, which clearly inspired Griffen. Since he was young, Saul has engaged in a variety of service projects involving people with disabilities in order to cope with his father’s illness. “I noticed people’s inability and lack of knowledge in properly communicating with someone with disabilities,” said Saul. So, instead of just noticing it, Saul set out to teach and inspire, hoping his non-profit expands to a “national level and maybe one day global.” As members of the Chicago community, we are all recipients and benefactors of Saul’s message; and, in light of the New Year, and everything that came tumbling down at the close of 2016, it’s a timely one. No matter what might be happening in the world, we can take solace in our community, and its individual commitment to bettering the lives of not only people with disabilities, but also all who might feel marginalized. “We are all able— all of us— to accomplish our dreams and achieve great things, despite challenges,” said Saul. “It’s about life in general.” Latin missed the boat this year, but hopefully we can be a participant of the 2nd annual We Are Able day. To visit the We Are Able website, click here.]]>