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‘Just a normal kid’: Oate High School band student not defined by disability

On Friday nights at the Field of Dreams, Isaac Brealey-Rood plays his instrument as loud and as proud as any other band student.

“Isaac truly is just another band kid to us,” said Louie Lucero, the school’s athletic coordinator.

“Our students see Isaac as another band kid,” said Shawn Silva, the director of the Oñate High School Royal Knight Regiment Band.

Drumming to his own beat

Isaac’s mom initially worried about sending him to band camp.

“He requires a lot of supervision,” said Carissa Bonacci. “He doesn’t play an instrument. He’s never been a part of any kind of musical program. I was in marching band when I was a kid. It was intense!”

Isaac is intellectually disabled with a cognitive delay, she told ABC-7.

Bonacci didn’t know what to expect with the intensity of the program. However, when her son took the field, she burst into tears.

“I was stunned,” Bonnaci said. “I teared up. He was so happy and he was out there in the field with all of the other kids. Just a normal, regular kid as part of the band. I was floored. I never would have expected that.”

“Interestingly enough, over the past couple weeks, he has been more and more rhythmically accurate,” said Valentino Leyba, the band’s director of percussion.

Brothers bond over band

Isaac brought both energy and enthusiasm while playing his drum before a crowd at Oñate’s homecoming game. However, the teenager might not have ever stepped on the field if not for his best friend.

“I never thought I’d be able to do this with him,” said his brother, Aidan Brealey-Rood. “It’s an amazing feeling.”​

Isaac’s family adopted him from Colombia when he was only three years old. The two 15-year-old boys share a bedroom, parents and a band family.

“It’s a pretty close bond,” Aidan told ABC-7. “Since about day one, since I first saw him, my earliest memory is when I first saw him.”

“Are you really happy?” Aidan asked Isaac during ABC-7’s interview in the band room.

“Yeah,” Isaac said with a smile.

Their next halftime show will be on Friday, September 20th at 7 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Oñate Knights will play their rivals, the Centennial Hawks.

A district’s mission of inclusion

“We teach family here,” said Kevin Moreman, the band’s director of jazz studies. “Just love everybody. We’re trying to get everybody to work as a team.”

“To us, it’s not inclusion,” Silva said. “That’s what band is. Band means ‘group of people together.’ Isaac is part of us together. He’s naturally included in the group.”

According to Las Cruces Public Schools, teachers and administrators strive to make all students feel included and welcome.

“It’s become a mission of the special education department here at Las Cruces Public Schools,” said Taryn Fogle, the Special Student Services Administrator for the district. “To make sure that students feel welcomed and included at their schools.”

District activities:

At Las Cruces High, there is a ‘best buddies’ club that pairs special needs students and others “with a goal of fostering friendships and breaking down barriers,” according to a district spokeswoman. On May 3rd, Centennial High School will host the annual Special Olympics Unified Schools Track and Field Meet Project UNIFY “joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team” at: Las Cruces High School Mayfield High School Centennial High School Mesa Middle School Picacho Middle School Sierra Middle school Vista Middle School Valley View Elementary School Zia Middle School

“It gives them so much pride when other students at the school recognize them for the things that they’re doing and not just because they have a disability,” Fogle said.



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