NORTHBOROUGH – At Lincoln Street School, students had an opportunity to learn more about the Best Buddies program at Algonquin Regional High School.
The Algonquin students came to Lincoln Street as part of SEL Day, which is short for social-emotional learning.
According to Lincoln Street social worker Justin Lohwater, during the COVID-19 pandemic, an organization recognized that students needed to celebrate social-emotional learning, leading to the celebration of SEL Day.
In the past, Lincoln Street has recognized the day by participating in different activities. For example, last year, the students helped create a community garden. This year, the theme is uplifting hearts, connecting minds.
Trying to think of a way to use the theme in a different way, Lohwater said the staff discussed how ARHS has an “awesome” program that does a lot of work surrounding inclusion.
“We wanted our students to recognize that all people and all brains are unique and to try to include everybody, no matter what their strengths or weaknesses are, and the idea that everybody needs a friend,” said Lohwater.
Throughout the week, Lincoln Street had activities about neurodiversity and brain differences, inclusion and being unique.
The activities culminated in the presentation by Best Buddies, who talked about their experience in the program.
One of the students was Zoe Manousos. When she was young, Manousos was involved in Peer Pals before getting involved with Project Unified at Trottier. When she got to Algonquin, Manousos knew she wanted to get involved.
“My buddy and I have been really, really awesome friends since my freshman year. … That has honestly been the best part, making that bond with her,” Manousos said.
The buddies played active games with the older students while the younger students colored large coloring sheets and made a new billboard for the school that will read “uplifting hearts, connecting minds” decorated with their fingerprints.
“It’s great to recognize people’s uniqueness and the fact that we’re all different, that we all have things that we’re good and things that we struggle with,” said Lohwater.