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Creating New Friendships

New and ever-popular Rebel buddies club continues to thrive throughout the holiday season

ALL+SMILES%3A+Senior+Kaitlyn+Dinkel+and+sophomore+Bella+Gonzalez+sort+presents+collected+through+the+toy+drive.+The+toy+drive+is+organized+by+the+Rebel+buddies+club%2C+of+which+both+Dinkel+and+Gonzalez+are+members.
ALL SMILES: Senior Kaitlyn Dinkel and sophomore Bella Gonzalez sort presents collected through the toy drive. The toy drive is organized by the Rebel buddies club, of which both Dinkel and Gonzalez are members.

ALL SMILES: Senior Kaitlyn Dinkel and sophomore Bella Gonzalez sort presents collected through the toy drive. The toy drive is organized by the Rebel buddies club, of which both Dinkel and Gonzalez are members.

Photo by Ashley Conner

Photo by Ashley Conner

ALL SMILES: Senior Kaitlyn Dinkel and sophomore Bella Gonzalez sort presents collected through the toy drive. The toy drive is organized by the Rebel buddies club, of which both Dinkel and Gonzalez are members.

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Izabella Gonzalez and Kaitlyn Dinkel grab armfuls of fuzzy teddy bears, children’s books and toys and place them onto a loading truck. This truck will soon be en route to Anna’s House, followed by multiple cars filled with eager Rebels, ready to sort toys and stuff stockings for the annual Anna’s House Christmas Party.

This is the annual holiday service outing done by the Rebel Buddies club, one of the numerous club opportunities offered at Roncalli. It is the perfect place for friendships to form and grow between peers and Life Academy students.

Rebel Buddies was formed four years ago by Life Academy instructional assistant Mrs. Julie Sommers along with a few students who transferred from New Palestine. Like most public schools, New Palestine had a “Best Buddies” program in place. This is a one-to-one program, where each individual peer is matched up with a student with special needs.

“Roncalli decided to take its own spin off of ‘Best Buddies’ with ‘Rebel Buddies’ because we have more peers than special needs students,” Sommers said.

Currently led by Sommers and Life Academy Coordinator Mrs. Grace Nickell, the mission of Rebel Buddies is to focus on enhancing the lives of students with and without disabilities while participating in service and social activities.

But there is more to Rebel Buddies than service outings, crafts and games. The club provides an opportunity for both peers and Life Academy students to work on their social skills and create friendships along the way. The Life Academy is a blended educational program designed to provide needed support and challenge students with intellectual disabilities academically, whether that be in a work study or general education class with modified curriculum. Rebel Buddies is a continuation of the Life Academy’s mission.

Senior and four-year Rebel Buddy Dinkel has created many friendships through the club and has gained a better understanding of the varieties of mental, physical and educational disabilities that some students face daily.

“[Sommers and Nickell] always come up with new ways to include everyone and change groups up to interact with new people,” Dinkel said.

Through Rebel Buddies, Dinkel has had the opportunity to get to know sophomore Gonzalez,  a lively member of the Life Academy who has been attending these club outings since the beginning of her freshman year.

“I’ve met a lot of new buddies that say hi to me in the hallways, and that makes [me] so happy,” Gonzalez said.

However, students do not need to be involved with the club to interact with students who enroll in the Life Academy. Some students in the Life Academy struggle both with conversation and expressing their feelings, causing many of them to be left out.

“To create and form [these friendships], you have to be willing to be patient and put yourself out there,” Sommers said.

To help the students feel more included, Sommers suggests sitting with students in the Life Academy at Mass, lunch or a basketball game. It’s also important to engage with them in the hallways and hold them accountable to the same rules in order to not be overly accommodating.

The goal of being a Rebel Buddy is to be an advocate for Life Academy students as well as being their friend throughout their high school journey.  And, as Dinkel has found, this club has allowed her to develop rich friendships with people that have taught her many unique perspectives and ways of viewing the world.

 

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