Students in grades 1 to 5 at all Needham public elementary schools were exposed to history through performance thanks to a Small Grant awarded by NEF during its spring 2013 grant cycle. The program, “Sheryl Faye Presents Historical Women,” served as the kick-off event for the town-wide Understanding Our Different Abilities program, which is coordinated by each school’s PTC. This fall, each elementary school had two sessions of the performance followed by a question-and-answer period with the performance artist.

Local actress Sheryl Faye presented a one-woman play that portrayed moments from Helen Keller’s childhood and young adulthood and her struggles to overcome obstacles and learn to communicate. Faye stayed in character for the 35-minute play in which she revealed the life of this historical woman who was deaf and blind yet achieved success. “Sheryl Faye showed the students that people such as Helen Keller who live with a disability are really not disabled but differently abled, and this is the same message as our program,” said Suzanne Lissy, chair of Understanding Our Different Abilities and an NEF board member. “Faye also explained to the kids that if you see someone who is differently abled not to be scared or to stare but to talk to them and ask questions if you have any.”