Cool Schools: Peer Buddies fostering new friendships
It is never any fun being left out at school so that is why Schmucker Middle School is making sure everyone has a friend. This year is the first full year for Peer Buddies.
The program kicked off in October and has been a plan in the making for quite some time. Already there are 34 students in the group. “This is something we have been dreaming about for the last five years,” said 7th grade Exceptional Needs Educator Pam Walters.
The program helps to foster new friendships between students who might not otherwise interact, along with an understanding of each other, regardless of ability.
“I like eating lunch with my Peer Buddies. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something," said Peer Jamie Plemons.
Peer Buddies was designed as an additional way to integrate general education and exceptional needs students.
“We’re supposed to make them feel like they have friends that encourage them and help them,” said Peer Mentor Maddie Smith.
Often times the group eats lunch together. “It’s really important, the mainstreaming for them to both, the exceptional education and the general education students just to come together so they learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Walters added.
Recently the group had a Valentine's party and has plans in the upcoming week to attend a basketball game together to cheer on one of their Peer Leaders.
The students look out for each other and learn from each others strengths and weaknesses.
Emily Werner is a Peer Mentor and said, "It’s just like so fun to eat lunch with them. The whole point of the Peer Buddy Program is to make the peers feel like they’re not different from everyone else because they’re not.”