by Karina Barbosa:

Peer Buddies, a new program, has been expanded by the Teaching Academy to replace the child care center that has been shut down.
However, instead of the Child Care Center this year, Kennedy students in the Teaching Academy are being “Peer Buddies” to the Special Ed students. In the Peer Buddies Program, a student takes a class with Ms. Green and then goes through training with Mrs. Anderson, who teaches the students how to best provide, support and teach those with different disabilities.
Ms. Anderson commented, “I have always hoped to find a way for my students to successfully integrate into their general education classrooms, and I have dreamed of close friendships between special and general education students, the Peer Buddy program had made that possible!” She assigns each student a peer buddy by matching their personalities to create the most harmony.
Many Special Ed students don’t often have the opportunity to have social experiences in the mainstream atmosphere due to having Special Day Classes (SDC); this program allows the special ed students and the Academy students to interact in ways they normally would not. The Peer Buddies work with them on projects and assignments which make them feel comfortable.
Senior Stacey Perzabal mentioned, “Being a part of this class is amazing. They’re all great kids and I enjoy every second I’m with them. I’m also lucky because it’s preparing me for my future career where I plan on working with children with special needs.”
Some Peer Buddies, including; Tanya Garcia, Karla Garcia, and Jackie Garza also love being a part of this program. They couldn’t be happier.
The Peer Buddy Program helps the grant, it helps the Teaching Academy, and most importantly, it makes the Special Ed students feel more comfortable and happier at Kennedy High.
Prior to this, the child center instructed students on issues of early childhood care, child learning development, and ways to create lesson plans.  A small handful of preschoolers from the local area were on hand. Senior students in the Teaching Academy would have to take a class with Ms. Hardy before helping, teaching or playing with the kids.
The program came to an end when the school lost Ms. Hardy and all teachers with a home economics credential due to budget cuts.
Academy chair Ms. Green commented, “It’s a shame it has been taken out; it was great service to our community.” The child care center’s absence nearly cost the Teaching Academy its Careers Teaching Academy Grant, nearly $80,000 in money. In order to qualify for the grant, academies must have cornerstone classes that teach their students career related skills.  The childcare center was the career tech class for the Teaching Academy.  The Peer Buddies program features some of the same necessary skills, and thus fulfills this needed requirement.  The grant helps the school by paying for activities, subs, busses, and more.