SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — High school students at Lincoln want to be better connected with kids in special education. That’s why they’ve started a “Best Buddies” program.
Dax and Yonni are new to Lincoln this year but the special education students are making quick connections.
“Even though they’re the new kids, I feel like they’re helping me feel at home here and I just really love seeing them in the hallway every day,” Hall said.
The two are spending time away from their normal classes to hang out with Seniors Emily Hall and Mitch Eichacker in the weight room. All four are part of roughly 25 kids in the “Best Buddies” program.
“So it’s a program that pairs students with and without disabilities together in a one-to-one friendship and it’s a program that promotes inclusion,” Eichacker said.
Eichacker helped bring the program to Lincoln. It was implemented for the first time last year.
“Something that we’re trying to break down is that wall where they’re different than we actually are when all around they’re just a high school student just like we are. It’s just that they were born different than we were,” Eichacker said.
It seems to be making an impact all around. Yonni’s favorite part of the deal, getting to be active with his buddies.
“Exercising and kickball,” Yonni said laughing.
“They both always have a smile. They really light up your day when you talk to them. Everyone loves to interact with them,” Eichacker said.
“Me and Dax have made a handshake that we do every time we see each other. I just feel like wherever they are, I’m comfortable there and I hope they feel the same way with me,” Hall said.
On top of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Brandon also have “Best Buddies” chapters. Eichacker says its a global organization. He thought it would benefit students with special needs but is surprised at how much he’s learned while making new friends.
“Makes you a better person and makes you want to do more for other people. It’s an awesome feeling,” Eichacker said.