Davidson eighth-graders assist special needs classmates

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 06:54 PM.

'Not a fluff class'

The program began a decade ago when guidance counselor Rhonda Brown asked an eighth-grader to mentor a student excused from physical education class.

When that school year ended and teachers saw how well the special needs student responded to his peer buddy, Cassity said she asked Brown, "How can we keep this going?"

The buddy program is now an academic class, Cassity said. Students have to apply, write an essay, and get two faculty recommendations and written permission from their parents to take the class.

During the school year, buddies maintain a performance log tracking their and their students' progress, describing projects and initiatives, and they must take an end-of-course exam.

"It's not a fluff class," Cassity said.

For the 2013-14 academic year, more than 90 rising eighth-graders, almost a third of the class, have applied for about 40 buddy openings.

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