Friendship Field Day Exemplifies Positive Interaction Among Students

May 31, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

One boy took the blue balloon ball, reared back his right hand and bopped it over the volleyball net, prompting the roars of encouragement from student-leader Kyle Serino and several others. Leader Christina Caiazzo fist-bumped another girl after she did the same. That's what Friendship Field Day was all about, after all.

Like the previous two years, the May 18 field day was the culminating event for current members of the McKinley and Intermediate schools’ Students Offering Solutions (SOS) leadership group – a fun time of interaction between the student leaders and their peers in the Stafford District’s special education program.

“Doing all the things we did today is about having fun with new kids,” said Serino, a sixth-grader and aspiring Major League baseball player who plays shortstop for the local Stafford Rams. “It gives you a new perspective. You learn to care about others and be more respectful.”

Overseen by Director of Special Services Hope Scherlin and organized by special education teacher Heather Paolo and physical education teacher Kathy Redling, Friendship Field Day included some dozen activities – from water balloon tosses to lawn bowling to plucking ducks from a wading pool – in which the student leaders ran the activities and interacted with the special education students who opted to participate.

“It’s just a good time for all of them to have fun together,” said Redling, a teacher of 33 years and who’s been in the district 17 years, starting out as an adaptive physical education teacher. “The special education students don’t get to participate in the regular field days, so this is specifically for them. I organize the activities and then just stand back and watch the student leaders go to work.”

Sprinkles the Clown was on hand to do various body-painting projects on demand, and, of course, there were snacks, donated by the Stafford PTO, to enjoy. With about three dozen student leaders and 50 special education students participating, the atmosphere outside behind the Ronald L. Meinders Primary Learning Center certainly had a fun vibe to it. And even if it was a bit over 90 degrees, that didn’t matter.

“This is our third year doing this and every year the SOS peer leaders come through and do a really great job,” said Paolo, who has been a special education teacher at the Ocean Acres School for 13 years. “They’re leaders and they love to help their peers. I saw one boy – he was leading one of the activities, and he gave his sunglasses to one of my students so he didn’t have to deal with the bright sun.

“In a setting like this, you see the student leaders’ compassion come out. And it’s really good for the special ed students because it’s another opportunity to interact with other students they don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It’s a joy to watch.”

Scherlin said the students of the SOS group meet with special education students in all the district’s buildings throughout the year, building relationships with their peers. Teacher and SOS adviser Eric Miller said the program exists to help student leaders develop necessary skills to succeed later in life and be role models.

“Developing traits that are associated with leadership are important for everybody,” he said. “Our program is designed to give students the chance to serve in our schools in any way possible. Whenever we’re needed, we’re there. And when these kids have opportunities to do good things in our schools, how can you go wrong?”

Sixth-grader Mattison Clark understands what being a leader is all about.

“We don’t have a class that teaches patience and understanding, and helping others and being a leader takes a lot of patience and understanding,” she said. “I had good leaders ahead of me, who taught me about being a good leader, and now I can be a role model to younger students.”

— David Biggy

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