Welcomed Into Community

Timpe Family The Timpe Family, from left: Maggie, Kevin, Emmaline, Allison, and Jameson

“It was a challenge to put down my sword when we came here,” recalls Kevin Timpe. “For most of our life in Idaho, I had become really good at fighting for Jameson’s inclusion in the public school. Any ideas, creative solutions, and holding the school accountable for his education came from me.”

When Kevin and Allison and their family moved to Grand Rapids, MI last year, they were expecting to use those skills again. Their kids had never gone to Christian schools, because all nearby Christian schools turned away Jameson, claiming they could not serve him due to his disabilities. But in the process of visiting potential Christian schools in West Michigan, they were happily impressed.
“It’s not just an inclusive mentality, there is a history of inclusion in West Michigan thanks to faithful All Belong advocates and partners,” Kevin reflects. “There is a strong commitment to accessibility, and people are very friendly and talk with Jameson. We have been super impressed with this region overall.”

Jameson and Friend During his time at Grand Rapids Christian Elementary, Jameson has developed rich connections with peers.

Jameson and Friends Jameson and his friends playing outside.

The Timpe family chose to attend Grand Rapids Christian Elementary school. Principal Mark Krommendyk “actively pursued our family. They wanted Jameson at their school, and reassured us that they have been doing inclusion for a very long time.” The school’s cooperative model stuck out as a strong contrast to the family’s previous school experiences.
“It has been amazing,” Allison shares.“Sometimes I cry happy tears about the sweetest stories. It’s obvious Jameson is a full member of the community; he is valued, and students and teachers go out of their way to include him.”

This year, Kevin also joined the board of All Belong, where he helps spread this inclusive mentality to communities outside of West Michigan. As the Jellema Chair of Philosophy at Calvin College, he also researches disability attitudes and approaches as his life’s work. “Since moving to Michigan and having our children enrolled in a All Belong partner, we’ve seen just how good a robust inclusion program is for all the students at that school,” said Kevin.

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This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Inclusive newsletter. 

Elizabeth Lucas DombrowskiElizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the executive director of All Belong.