Fishers schools’ Programs Create Life-long Friendships
Writer: Matt Keating
Photography provided by HSE Schools
Best Buddies creates one-to-one friendships between students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their general education peers.
Hamilton Southeastern High School (HSE) now has grant money for its excellent Best Buddies program. HSE was recently named one of the Top 10 Fundraising teams for Best Buddies.
Maggie Hammond, a resource teacher at HSE, says the $10,000 winnings will go to Best Buddies of Indiana.
“This will help to run the National Organization,” Hammond says.
Students in the HSE Best Buddies program get together as a club several times a year to help foster these friendships, which often continue for years to come.
“Every year, there is a new leadership team,” Hammond says. “The Leadership Team runs the student-led organization. Best Buddies on Indiana facilitates a Leadership Training every year. We will be able to send two to three students to the Leadership Training in the summer.”
Hammond is in her 13th year at HSE, and 21st year teaching.
“We have approximately 150 members in the club,” Hammond says. “Members include people with and without disabilities. Leading such a large club does require a huge time commitment, and the Leadership Team runs the majority of the events. That is why the summer Leadership Training is imperative.”
At Sand Creek Elementary, the Best Buddies Elementary chapters are considered promoter chapters.
“We are responsible for fostering relationships, promoting kindness, awareness, and acceptance at the elementary level of students with disabilities,” says Charlanne Tunison, a Functional Academic Teacher and Best Buddies Advisor at Sand Creek Elementary.
“Rather, we work on peer relationships and awareness,” Tunison says. “At Sand Creek, we have one activity a week that promotes kindness, builds relationships, and helps the younger students understand acceptance and awareness. We really work to promote working together and celebrating our differences. It is amazing that HSE can also start to offer this program to students K-12 to continue the acceptance and awareness within our community.”
Tunison says that students are excited to be involved.
“I have seen a huge morale boost within the building and students involved,” Tunison says. “I am in my classroom most of the day, and I very rarely venture out, but when I do, I see students going out of their way to say ‘Hi’ to my students. I have students who will ask to come and read to my classroom. I have also seen an improvement in behavior from students that struggle, because they are working to see their friends, and I am also seeing students who are more effective in calming each other down.”
“It’s important to teach our students the importance of kindness and acceptance of all kids,” Tunison adds. “Celebrate each person and their differences. Our students may not be able to communicate, but they can hear. They have feelings, reach out a helping hand, or share a smile. I have three young children, ages 3,5 and 7. It is important to me that they understand differences but also learn to accept them. I always tell them to celebrate their abilities and differences.”