A program referred to as “exceptional Bona Buddies” has been developed between St. Bonaventure University and Olean High School students for the first time this semester.
Through the program, special education students from Olean High School are paired with St. Bonaventure students pursuing a special education certification.
The Bonaventure students create lesson plans in advance, which are approved by Dr. Anne-Claire Fisher, assistant professor of differentiated instruction in the School of Education at St. Bonaventure, and Holly Scordo, an Olean High School teacher.
The students meet either one on one or in small groups, where they do activities together and go through the lesson plans.
“The idea is to infuse transition (post-school outcomes) goals into community-based instruction,” said Fisher.
Most of the special education students are between the ages of 16 and 21. The program helps the students adjust to living in a community and helps them to develop necessary everyday skills. For example, to get to St. Bonaventure, the students take public transportation so they can learn bus etiquette and make small talk with anyone else who may be on the bus.
They also develop career skills thanks to the help of Julie Hall, director of the Office of Field Services in SBU’s School of Education. Hall works with Olean High School to help the students pursue job opportunities on St. Bonaventure’s campus. One of the high school students is learning how to sort mail at the university’s on-campus post office.
Speech pathologist Jackie Giardini also assists with the program. While the Bonaventure students and their “buddies” meet in various on-campus locations, Giardini makes sure to walk by every group in order to create more communication opportunities.
A communication checklist is used to make sure each student is taking full advantage of the opportunities on campus, such as practicing their speech and conversational skills with their college buddy.
One of the key aspects of the program is for the college and high school students to switch roles.
“We try to get students in different roles, so that both sets of students are learning and teaching,” said Fisher.
SBU senior Luci Kovalovsky agrees.
“It definitely helps me learn about the real-life experience I’ll get while working with special education students in the future,” she said.
Students like Kovalovsky develop lesson plans based not only on curriculum that the Olean High School students are learning, but also on their own personal interests. A lot of the students enjoy cooking, so the Bonaventure students will make eggs or bake with them.
One group of students baked cookies together and made an order form to sell their goodies. All of the money they earned from selling the cookies goes to a local animal shelter.
To be involved with this program, St. Bonaventure students must be enrolled in SPED 450 and be working to achieve their 30- to 35-hour internship credit. Every Friday, they meet with their “buddies” with their prepared activities and lesson plans.
Fisher and Scordo have high hopes the program will be a success. Both groups of students, they said, have already learned so much through the program that it’s definitely been a positive addition to the special education certification program.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #5 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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