By Marie Saba and Amy Shen
Volunteer hours are a major part of high school. They are required for Government, a class all seniors must take to graduate and for college and honor society applications. Some Jamesville-DeWitt High School students chose to fulfill that requirement by volunteering with the special needs students in Room G17.
“I love having the peer volunteers coming in (because) it really brightens the students’ days,” says special education teacher Jody Smith. These peer volunteers are seniors Simone Lavallee, Julian David-Drori, Cody Duval, and Cheyenne Danforth.
Every day, a student volunteer comes and helps with various activities involving the special education students. “They will help a student perform an activity, usually an activity that involves communication or social skills in some ways,” says Ms. Smith. One way David-Drori helps is by walking with the students to help alleviate sensory issues that may occur throughout the day. Ms. Smith finds that the student volunteers are “good role models for the students and encourage good communication skills and good behaviors.” The volunteers help the students with their schoolwork and assignments as well, which vary day to day.
Ms. Smith believes that the student volunteers are very helpful and leave a lasting impact on her students. “It’s a really good way to connect [the special education students] to the rest of the building,” says Ms. Smith. She noticed that “they glow” when they see, or are with, a student volunteer. “They’ll smile and say hello when they recognize someone,” says Ms. Smith.
And the volunteers get more than just the fulfillment of a Government requirement. They’ve all formed friendships with the special education students. David-Drori says he’s “formed a bond” with the students, as had Danforth. “It’s nice knowing you have a bond with someone,” she says. Duval agrees that “they’re all so great,” while Lavalle talks to one outside of the school day.
Why did these seniors choose this type of volunteering? “I didn’t want to volunteer for something that I didn't care about,” says David-Drori. Duval and Lavallee both volunteered in G17 because they like helping people and especially those who need it. Danforth started volunteering as a sophomore and continued through her senior year even though the hours didn’t count for Government.
“I do enjoy doing this because it lets me meet people who have a similar mind as mine,” says David-Drori. In order to volunteer for this cause, Lavallee had to drop her AP Computer Science class, but she admits she enjoys it more than Computer Science. Danforth says “it’s a little bit of a different perspective,” but she enjoys it as well. Duval believes volunteering is fun and rewarding.
Are you thinking of volunteering with the special education students? “I would recommend it if you’re really interested in it,” says Danforth. “You should have some ability to work with people and be understanding and patient,” says David-Drori.
When you’re in need of Government volunteer hours, keep the special education students in mind!