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East High School's Buddies Club builds friendships, breaks down barriers

(WIFR)
Published: Mar. 13, 2020 at 9:41 PM CDT
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High school can be a tough time for students, especially for those who are most often excluded. Members of a club at East High School is making it a little bit easier and encouraging everyone to be buddies.

Anthony Seipts is your typical high school sophomore. While girls may make him a little nervous at times, he's got nothing to worry about every Tuesday after school.

“I just joined because it's easy, it's fun. Ms. G is fun people!” said East High School sophomore Anthony Seipts.

“We don't want to have any barriers here in school. We want everybody to feel like they can feel included in some kind of activity,” said East High School teacher Jessica Gerrond.

Once a week, Jessica Gerrond's classroom turns into the home of Buddies Club. Where everyone is welcome and disabilities are left at the door.

“Many of our students that are in the self-contained special education program were not having the interactions that we thought were possible with the general education students,” said Gerrond.

Gerrond started the club four years ago to bridge the gap between the two groups of students.

“Helping out just puts me in a better mood and I feel needed and I feel like I make a difference when I help out down here,” said East High School sophomore Megan York.

Close to 40 students are part of the club that focuses on teaching motor and social skills, but the lessons learned here go far beyond room 116.

“You're seeing these relationships taking place outside of the walls of my classroom, in the hall, in the cafeteria. Students are participating in going to sporting events outside of school so we're seeing it in more and more places,” said Gerrond.

While many high schoolers try to fit in and follow trends, Buddies Club is out to show they're really no different than anyone else.

“They just need friends, they want friends and people to talk to and no matter if they're disabled or abled like they just want someone to talk to and hang out with,” said York.

“They’re just an awesome group of students and I'm very lucky I get to lead a group like this every week,” said Gerrond.