As Denison ISD special needs students took the field to compete in a recent bocce ball competition with other schools in the area, the one common theme that prevailed was the theme of both kindness and compassion. As part of a special program in Denison ISD, students from Denison High School and Scott Middle School came together to participate alongside the SPED students as team mates and partners both in competition, and in life.
The Scott Middle School Jacket Friends group and the Denison High School SWARM of Friends group join with special needs students on their campuses to help them navigate through daily life situations. Whether they are helping in the classroom with simple life tasks, or running side-by-side in a Special Olympics event, these Jacket Friends students and SWARM of Friends student play a vital role in life that fills a special place in the hearts of the Denison special needs students.
“My experience started in middle school and I just saw some of the special needs kids and I just started talking to them. When I got into the program in middle school, it helped me come to realize that these kids were a lot of fun to be around and I loved helping them out with things, teaching them how to do things. The students make a lot of new friends and when we see each other in the halls we can greet one another. This program allows the special needs program students the opportunity to learn to communicate with others, build friendships and work on social skills with people other than their parents or family,” Denison High senior Addison Acosta said.
The program is designed to pair regular education students with special education students in a partnership to assist students in learning to manage basic life skills.
“We are friends to the kids that don’t normally make friends like other people do. Here at the bocce ball tournament, we get to help the special needs students play their games and compete against the other schools. The best part of this program is just getting to hang out with the special needs students and see the smiles on their faces and see them happy,” Scott Middle School eighth grade student Katielyn Houston said.
As the field the Denison High School indoor practice facility filled with competitors, students competed right alongside their SPED friends. They celebrated victories together, and even stepped up on the podium together to receive their medals as a team.
“Today, we are here to put smiles on everybody’s faces, to meet new friends and to have a great time. Through the Special Olympic games, students learn social, physical and mental skills that help them greatly. We get to coach them on how to play the games help them be a part of these special events,” Scott Middle School eighth grade student Carter Hayes said.
This program fosters the belief that all students, regardless of their level of need, are valued and capable of being part of something special. Denison ISD Jacket Friends and SWARM of Friends students truly exhibit the spirit of kindness and compassion by making it a part of the daily lives of all students
“This program allows special needs students to work well with others, get to know new people, learn to communicate and grow as a person. I love getting to work with the students and help them feel loved and happy,” Denison High School SWARM of Friends senior Lexi Yandell said.
Denison High School students compete in the bocce ball games right alongside their SPED student friends. “This program teaches you that helping people isn’t bad and giving back to the community is good thing. You can see the happiness in someone that you took time out of your day to help,” Denison High School senior Christian Smallwood said.
Denison High School SWARM of Friends students come together to assist Denison ISD SPED students both in their Special Olympic competitions, and in basic life skill situations.
Denison ISD SPED students compete in the annual bocce ball tournament against students from other schools in the area. They cheer each other on to victory and celebrate wins by taking the podium to receive a medal. “This type of event allows us all to step out of our comfort zone and learn to work with others. For the special needs students, they love to be with everyone and play the games,” Denison High School SWARM of Friends senior Madison Casarez said.
Denison ISD’s Scott Middle School Jacket Friends students enjoy the opportunity to participate and assist their special needs friends as they compete in the annual bocce ball tournament.
Celebrating victories, both Denison High School SWARM of Friends and Scott Middle School Jacket Friends helpers join their special needs partners on the podium for a picture as they proudly display their medals for winning their competition.