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OHS Panther Printing Press, "Diverse Designs by Diverse Students"

 "Diverse Designs by Diverse Students"

 

Let’s take a trip back in the past- 

It’s a sunny Thursday morning in March and a bus of students travels from school to school getting prepared to deliver some of their handmade products for Disability Awareness Week. Why? A group of Orange High School students in the Occupational Course of Studies Program have been running a school-based enterprise right in their classroom, and for this year’s project, they chose to make t-shirts.

The Panther Printing Press, run entirely by students, has been operating since 2023 when they received a PTSO mini-grant which helped to pioneer the business, where the students create mugs, ornaments and other items, and this time, t-shirts. 

In preparation for Disability Awareness Week, the Panther Printing Press held a pre-sale for staff in schools and offices across the district, ultimately selling 94 shirts. Students helped to create shirts in three different colors and designs, with the collaboration and support of EC and general education teachers.

Each design was pressed on a t-shirt with a Cricut machine, a process the students had to learn from pressing to “weeding,” or removing unwanted vinyl from the project. 

Kylie Painter, the Exceptional Children's Facilitator at OHS, wrote in the pre-sale notification that students worked on a number of skills during this process such as “employment training, machine training, behavior skills, counting, daily living skills, transition-based skills, related service skills and even academics.”

Each shirt was hand-pressed by students in one of three designs: orange with “accessibility is never optional,” Carolina blue with “disability ally,” or tie-dye with “different not less.”

Students worked in two groups: the students in transition-based classes worked to make and package the shirts while the students in the Occupational Course of Studies Program prepared, sorted and labeled the shirts for delivery. 

The day of the delivery, March 14, students and staff got on the bus and drove from school to school to deliver the shirts. Delivering shirts and being able to share their unique design opened up an opportunity not only to spread the word about their business, but also to build community and increase disability awareness. 

“One of the goals of this program is to increase awareness of disability throughout the Orange High School and Orange County School community, and promote a sense of increased inclusivity as the program grows,” Painter said. 

There was a great sense of pride within the students, Painter said, being able to see people wearing their creations in real time.

“In that moment, there is an unspoken support that is given to all students and individuals with exceptionalities — you are safe, seen and supported,” Painter said.