SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A 16-year-old who lives in San Diego wrote a book during the pandemic teaching empathy and inclusion.
Ayana Patel noticed in elementary school how cruel the social pyramid can be.
"I often noticed students that would sit alone because they were left out on the playground or at lunch and this was because others thought that they were different or they were too weird," she said.
Situations like this can have lasting impacts:
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Every time she encountered a situation like this Ayana would step in and make a new friend.
"That really bothered me, I didn't think that that was right and it shouldn't be like that. I wanted everyone to be included despite being different," Ayana said.
She was driven by that mission, instilled by her family. In seventh grade, she created an adaptive dance program for kids with special needs. She said she loved watching them walk through the door to class.
"They'd get really excited because they love to dance and it would just make me feel so incredible because I could see the impact I had on my students and it was just the most amazing feeling," says Ayana.
When the pandemic started, she was inspired to keep holding class by transitioning to virtual sessions in March. She still has about a dozen students.
"All the parents seem to really love it, which is amazing because my class isn't just for the students, it's also for parents because I know, especially during this pandemic, it is so challenging for parents to keep their kids engaged and have activities for them to participate in," Ayana said.
Her students also inspired her to make use of her free time during the pandemic, by writing a book titled "Pacey the Peacock."
"In my story, Pacey has trouble making friends," Ayana said he overcomes challenges and learns to love what makes him unique.
When asked what she hopes kids learn from reading her book:
"I hope that my book teaches children that it's okay to be different, but despite these challenges that may come up because you're different, you can still be included and we need to learn to accept ourselves and celebrate our differences and love ourselves for who we are," she replied.
The proceeds from her book will go back into her adaptive dance program.
She hopes when it is safe to gather, to use the funds to reserve a studio and buy costumes for recitals for her students.