Each year our IU gives out an award to deserving educators that support the integration of students with disabilities into a regular education. It never ceases to amaze me how creative and dedicated both students and staff can be to make innovative programs like these succeed. Below is a summary of the Best Buddies program at Stroudsburg Junior High School given by Marc Bernstein, CIU 20 Supervisor of Multi-disabilities Program.
Every year on orientation day, our IU gives out prestigious awards for different accomplishments. This year, I have the honor to present the Maureen Crawford Award. This honor is awarded in memory of Maureen Crawford, a strong proponent of the inclusion of all students, to a deserving person or persons, who have worked collaboratively to include special needs students in the broader community.
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”- Albert Einstein
After being inspired by their involvement with the Special Olympics, and with a desire to develop and build meaningful relationships between all of the diverse learners in their building, the Stroudsburg Junior High developed a Building-wide buddies program called fittingly “Building Buddies.”
The participants in the Best Buddies program were carefully selected, and placed in teams that included a General Ed student, a special Ed student, and an adult.
These teams met informally every day but participated in at least one organized activity per month, where members of the group could bond and build lasting friendships. One of these activities, which occurred on February 27, 2009 highlights the success of the program, and led me to nominate the Building Buddies program for the Maureen Crawford Award.
Lewis, a former student in our IU operated Physical support classroom, who just the year prior lost his uncle to cancer, was motivated to raise awareness and money for the American Cancer Society. Lewis brought this idea to his team, and very quickly the entire Stroudsburg Jr. High community jumped in to help.
With the input of staff, students, and parents, the Building Buddies program dedicated their February activity to a “Pin to Win” tournament. Utilizing the lunch periods only, over 20 teams competed in a hybrid pin-ball/dodge ball tournament. With tons of pomp and circumstance provided by the school band, the atmosphere was electric and the competition fierce. I had the privilege of participating on one of these teams. In the end Lewis and the Best Buddies program earned over 1500 dollars.
Although earning the money was important, it was nothing compared to the priceless relationships that were developed. As one student from our physical support class noted:
“I like having a buddy. My buddy is a nice guy. I really liked going around the school with him asking the teachers if it was okay to put a sign in their rooms for the PIN to WIN game. My buddy comes everyday in the morning and he helps me with stuff. He comes in and we do stuff.”
At a time of high stakes tests, how do we really evaluate success? I believe that the work of Dr. Mross and the Stroudsburg Jr. High family must be counted far above all other measures.
It is my honor to award the Maureen Crawford award to the Best Buddies Program at Stroudsburg Junior High!!!!
Congratulations to Luis, the other students, Stroudsburg Junior High School Staff, & Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 Staff for their innovation, commitment to kids and collaboration to make it happen.
Photo: Front Row: Mr. Louis Morales (parent), Mrs. Mariel Morales (parent), Lewis Morales (IU Physical Support class), and R.J. Cooney (Building Buddy member)
Back Row: Mrs. Charlene Cooney(parent), Mr. Robert Cooney (parent), Stephen Cooney(Building Buddy (Leader), Mrs. Cindy Svennsen (HPE teacher and Building Buddy Faculty Assistant), Mrs. Joanna Kovacs (HPE and Building Buddy Faculty Advisor), Mr. Paul Sipler (Vice-Principal SJH), Mr. Ed Crawford (IU Award Presenter) and Mr. Marc Bernstein (IU Supervisor).