In Memory of Erin McKenzie
(August 9, 1984 -
August 24, 2004)
Erin McKenzie may have lived a short life, but it was filled with activities and friends, whom she touched in many ways with her outstanding spirit. She attended Westerville South high school where, along with the support of her family, friends, and many teachers, she was always included. She enjoyed attending general education classes with her friends as well as enjoying all the traditional high school activities such as senior prom and graduation.
One of Erin's biggest loves was theatre. She was an active member of Thespian Troupe 513 at Westerville South. In her honor, they have renamed an annual award given to the two or three seniors who have contributed the most effort to the group and productions as the "Erin McKenzie Theatre Participation Award." Erin also was involved with the Otterbein University Theatre department. She served as an usher for numerous productions during each year. Erin enjoyed greeting guests and handing out programs. Erin was a joy to work with; her smile and laughter were infectious.
Erin McKenzie's life mirrored the lofty goals of this collection. She, like the diverse literature and media surrounding us, was a source of learning. She confirmed the best of what we hope is present in the human spirit and challenged old notions by establishing new ones.
This collection promotes learning and discovery. It seeks to confirm and challenge old notions with new ones. It pulls together books, media, and information that encourage conversations and facilitate our discovery of one another's cultures, experiences, and struggles and how we are connected. The collection celebrates the gifts and talents in each of us and helps us build inclusive communities where all are valued.
Text of Speech
Did you love High School? I did! We had some very good teachers. And, the best part was being with friends in class, at meetings, at parties, everywhere!
We learned new things in high school and we discovered what we were good at or liked to do. I learned that I love Shakespeare! And Theatre! And Choir! And Drama Club! And working with the Otterbein University Theatre Department. We learned about different cultures and languages. I learned American Sign Language.
Some times we needed help from other friends or adults and some times we helped them. It is nice to help other people! We learned that some things are hard for us. We had to study and practice. We had to be on time and be organized.
But, we have more to learn.
The character, Louisa, in one of my favorite plays, THE FANTASTICKS, sings, “I want to do the things I've dreamed about but never done before. Perhaps I'm bad, or wild, or mad, with lots of grief in store. But I want much more than keeping house, much more, much more, much more!”
Go Seniors! Enjoy life!
On May 17, 2005 there was a dedication for The Erin McKenzie Welcoming Space at the Westerville South High School Media Center.
Mitakuye Oyasin is taken from the Lakota/Dakota Language and can be translated, “We are all related,” or “All my relations.” It speaks to the sacred belief of oneness and harmony with the universe.
Waste' Wiyan is the name that Erin was honored with by the Native American community. Wiyan means “woman.” Waste' can be translated as good, gentle, loving, or how you see the person's inner beauty.
This beautiful mural was painted in honor of Erin on the wall of the media center of Westerville South High school by Sarah Boatright, a 2005 graduate and fellow WSHS Thespian with Erin.
"Erin touched my soul and helped me to see differently."
("Lessons from the Life of Erin McKenzie". Speakout: Colorado's Information Newsletter for Children With Disabilities, Winter, 2004)