'Above the Line' Volunteers Build Relationships

'Above the Line' Volunteers Build Special Relationships
Posted on 12/04/2018
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photo of above the line student volunteers in gym with students from multiple disability classroomsEach day from 10:45 to 11:50 a.m., you’ll see Plains Junior students building special relationships by working together on academic activities, getting some exercise in the gym and moving through the lunch line side-by-side.

“This program began organically over two years ago when a few seventh-grade students wanted to share some of their free time with our Multiple Disabilities classes,” said Brenda Paget, the school’s guidance counselor. “Some of the students had supported their friends in elementary school and wanted to continue their friendships in junior high school.”

The program has evolved into a coveted volunteer opportunity at the school, requiring participants to have at least a 3.8 GPA, a teacher recommendation and to be overall good role models in the building. A dozen students are part of the group informally known as “Above the Line” (the term comes from the district culture that encourages students and staff to choose behavior that is intentional, skillful and respectful).

The Above the Line volunteers rotate monthly between two specialized classrooms, and they work with different students on a weekly basis so that they can really get to know each student. Teachers Caroline Brady and Anne Broshear provide the volunteers with a variety of classroom activities ranging from educational games to sensory exploration and simple cooking opportunities.

After working on classroom activities, everyone heads to the gym for an exercise break that gives students time to practice gross motor skills, communication skills, and social skills while playing 1:1 or in small groups. Volunteers then accompany the students to the lunchroom, helping as needed and encouraging independence.

The relationships that are built often carry outside the classroom. Last year some students went to Kings Island together, had picnic lunches together or joined each other for socials outside of the school day.

“Perhaps these growing relationships will continue to create lifelong friendships like many in former years,” said Broshear. “My favorite part of this program is knowing that ALL the kids are benefiting socially and that they are going to take these experiences and memories with them as they move up to high school and eventually into the community. We are fortunate to have all of these students, no matter the ability level, working together in our classrooms, schools, and communities. Great students turn into great people.”