A Special Program for the Special Needs Class
A look into the Buddy Program and the person behind it all
September 23, 2019
For our first BTV episode, we wanted to make it sweet and special, and we found the perfect student to feature. Welcome senior Ava Gurwitz, the Associated Student Body (ASB) peer relations commissioner who built special connections with the special needs class.
“Hi my name is Ava Gurwitz, and I’m a senior. I am on Beckman ASB, [and] I decided to join ASB because it was an outlet for getting to be involved in school with my peers and hyping up school spirit. I was last year’s ASB peer relations commissioner, which plans all of the events between the special needs department at Beckman and the ASB students.”
As the peer relations commissioner, one of her responsibilities is managing the Buddy Program. The Buddy Program helps the ASB students to build a connection with the special needs class.
“The Buddy Program has biweekly events between the ASB kids and the special needs department. So, each ASB student will have a buddy from the special needs class, and they’ll do arts and crafts, social activities, sports, games, all that stuff during our ASB period. And at the end of the year, kind of the culmination of the year is a Buddy Prom we put on.”
The Buddy Prom is a special prom dance for the special needs class at the Country Club, having their own prom king and queen and dancing the evening away. Planning activities, such as the Buddy Prom, is nothing new for Ava.
“I’ve grown up with an autistic brother my whole life, so I thought that I would be able to incorporate what I’ve learned growing up into planning the best activities to help these students really have a great experience. For me, I’ve known nothing else my whole life, so it hasn’t been all that difficult. But when I take a step back and look at it, there were definitely moments where people wouldn’t really understand why I was involved in something and Garret wasn’t if they didn’t know what he was dealing with. For example, I took him out to lunch a few weeks ago and he hates june bugs, and some june bug flew outside, and he screamed. People were like, ‘What is this kid doing?’ and I had to explain to everybody. So, things like that are difficult, but I understand my brother, so I am able to be an advocate and a voice to him.”
However, Ava also has to make sure that communication between everyone involved is smooth.
“I think the hardest part is bridging the gaps of contact because with a lot of these kids, they don’t have phones, they don’t have things like that where we can just send them a message. You have to reach out to the teachers, to the aids, to the people helping, to administration, so [we are] bridging all the gaps of communication so that everybody is involved. That’s definitely been the biggest thing we have to look out for and make sure that we are being aware of.”
Working with the special needs class in ASB inspired Ava to expand the goals of the Buddy Program to Link Cru, a program where upperclassmen help the incoming freshmen transition from middle school to high school.
“I also started a new program within Link Cru implementing the same idea. When I first became a Link Cru coordinator, I realized that my own brother wasn’t able to do Link Cru. Even in my own Link Cru group, there was this kid who had special needs who was never able to show up. When I realized how [in] Link Cru, the whole main mission of the program is to try to integrate all these students into Beckman, and tell them that everyone has a spot and everybody has a place. But, we’re excluding this one really marginalized group, and so I started this program called Cru Connect where we go into the special needs classrooms, and we do activities with them. We show them a lot of events that are going on in the school that they can be involved in.”
Even though Ava is a busy senior, she continues to be part of the Buddy Program and Cru Connect because it is another meaningful way for her to bond with her brother at school.
“My relationship with my brother is really strong, and just having him progress and learn so many more social skills and being able to be incorporated in so many activities is really helpful. He’s always so supportive of me, and I get to support him in return.”
Seeing the smiles and building cherished memories, Buddy Program and Cru Connect are rewarding experiences for Ava. From these experiences, she’s learned how impactful the little actions are on the special needs class. Ava plans on adding more activities for the Buddy Program and expanding Cru Connect to Link Cru programs at other schools, seeking to spread her vision and create a change for all special needs classes.
That’s all for the first spot feature of BTV! We hope you enjoyed learning more about Ava Gurwitz and the sweet and special things she does for the special needs class.