Jared Polec has visited countless schools over his playing career, but the Ascot Vale Special School was one of the most memorable.
“The school is for kids with intellectual disabilities, so it was different than some of the other schools that I’ve been to, but when you get down to it, kids are kids. And they were so excited,” Polec told North Media.
“One of the teachers said that the school doesn’t get many sports people visiting. So, when we were there all the kids were really happy and excited.
“I actually thought that these kids were more engaged than any other school that I had been to. It was a really good experience.”
Even more impressive, the entire day was organised by a 16-year-old student.
“He was unbelievable,” Polec said.
“He was so happy to have us at his school and so welcoming. He did a great job, taking photos, and showing us around the school and giving us a bit of a tour, it was really good.”
North skipper, Jack Ziebell, also attended alongside Marley Williams, Shaun Higgins, and Tom Murphy.
“It was really great having a student showing us around,” Ziebell said.
“When we showed up, he told us where to check in and took control. He brought us to different classes to meet all the students.
“He was so enthusiastic, and it was really cool to see that.”
The school’s vision is to prepare young people with a cognitive disability to reach their full potential.
“I have a lot of admiration for the teachers and staff,” Ziebell added.
“They have so much patience, and the care they showed for their students was unreal.”
The mother of a student affirmed how much these visits meant.
“It’s immensely important to have the players out interacting with our kids,” she said.
“They see their friends and siblings at other schools, mainstream schools, that have their footy days, and they don’t have it here.
“So it’s been great to form the connection with North Melbourne and work with them to include Ascot Vale Special School and make it a regular thing.
“I think the players are doing brilliantly. They’re including everybody and taking the extra time that it takes with these kids, and they’re encouraging them which is wonderful to see.”