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Archive for Sunday, March 19, 1995

PROJECT OPENS NEW FRIENDSHIPS

March 19, 1995

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Seventh-grader Meghan Rahmeier lifted the parachute over her head and shouted over the din.

"Hey! Let's do something different," she said. "Reach up really high, then snap it to the ground."

The colorful parachute rose, puffy like bread, then SNAP! the children pulled it taught. Caught beneath, Samantha Dally, 9, emerged smiling and tousled.

Meghan and her classmates from South Junior High School play with Samantha and her classmates at Hillcrest School once a month. Tracye Towle, seventh-grade core teacher at South, said the class wanted to play sports with 20 special-needs children at Hillcrest as part of a community service project.

Towle needed only to stand back and watch during this month's visit. The children have become friends and need no adult input about how to have fun.

It wasn't always that way for the South students.

"They were just real awkward and shy, and you could just tell how they didn't have a clue how to play with these kids," Jane Scarffe, resource teacher at Hillcrest, said. "They quickly got over it."

The children at Hillcrest have physical disabilities or are medically frail. Scarffe said she had seen marked improvement in the way the children interact socially in classrooms since the South class began its project.

The junior high students said they thoroughly enjoyed being with the children. Towle said many of them hadn't been in contact with special-needs children before.

"It's good experience ... getting to know kids and how they feel," seventh-grader Bryce McMichael said.

Hillcrest Principal Bob Arevalo said he was glad to see impressionable adolescents getting the chance to meet and interact with special-needs children.

"That sense of understanding of people with special needs starts here when they're 5 years old, in kindergarten," he said. "It's part of our culture. It's part of Hillcrest School."

Between parachute games, seventh-grader Katie Maxon hugged a friend she has found at Hillcrest.

"She said she's going to miss me," Katie said. "We're like sisters."

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