Buddy System allows volunteers to interact with Fairmont Industries students

Students+enjoy+card+and+board+games+at+the+Buddy+Systems+Game+Night+on+Nov.+5%2C+2013.

Photo: Riley Smith

Students enjoy card and board games at the Buddy System’s Game Night on Nov. 5, 2013.

Jenga, Ping-Pong and Chutes and Ladders were only a few of the numerous games that Fairmont students played at Game Night on Nov. 5, 2013. Events like these connect Fairmont Industries students with volunteering FHS students.

Game Night is one of the many events held by Fairmont’s Buddy System. About once or twice a month, volunteer students pair up with students with disabilities, and together they participate in a number of activities, such as going out to eat or playing board games on Game Night.

Anyone can participate in the Buddy System, says Kathleen Duggan, the intervention specialist who runs the program. “National Honor Society students and any other students who would like to volunteer to be a buddy come out and help the kids,” she said.

Duggan has worked with students in the Fairmont Industries program for nine years. She began working with the Buddy System three years ago. “I’ve been a teacher here for a long time. I see the value of Fairmont Industries students having the opportunity to be with other Fairmont students,” said Duggan.

Many FHS students are finding their own initiative to work with Fairmont Industries students.

Freshman Dalton Smith enjoys interacting with people with disabilities. “My uncle is mentally disabled, and I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with him. I hate seeing people make fun of disabled people,” Smith said.

Smith has attended many of last semester’s events, including Uno games at Marion’s and a showing of Despicable Me at Fairmont. Smith says he’s enjoyed all of the events so far and plans to attend this semester’s events.

Senior Taylor Poliquin also joined the Buddy System this year. “I want to work in special education. I’m going to Wright State to get my degree,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin had never heard of the Buddy System until she started student assisting for Duggan. “My friend, senior Faizon Nawaz, is one of the Fairmont Industries kids, and he has always come up to me and wanted to high-five me. He’s always been really nice to me,” Poliquin said. “I thought, ‘This kid is sweet and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, so let’s see what all the other kids are like!’”

Poliquin signed up for all of the first semester events, and she says she has enjoyed every activity the group has done so far. One of her favorite events was bowling at Woodman Lanes. “For some of them, it’s harder to bowl,” said Poliquin. “But my friend Sherman actually did better than me. He beat me!”

Duggan estimates an average of 10-15 students volunteer in the Buddy System this year, and she’s pleased with the number of students getting involved. “I don’t think nearly as many students participated in the past as they do now,” she said.

Junior Quinten Heatherly loves to participate in the Buddy System. He’s a member of the Fairmont Industries program, but sometimes he participates as a buddy. “I love helping out disabled kids,” said Heatherly.  “I love hanging out with them.”

Heatherly has been involved with Fairmont Industries since his freshman year, and he knows that the Industries program will be what he misses the most when he leaves Fairmont. “The kids inspire me to come. It is my most favorite thing about Fairmont.”

While she is proud of her current members, Duggan would appreciate having more students participate. “That’s the hard part about running this club,” she said. “We don’t always have enough buddies, and I can’t always give the kids the same buddy every time.” There are 40 students enrolled in Fairmont Industries, and about 20 participate regularly in Buddy System events.

Duggan has already planned many of the second semester events. Some of the upcoming events include a trip to a local McDonald’s, another movie night, and attending the spring musical, Shrek the Musical.

For information regarding the Buddy System and upcoming events, contact Duggan at: kathleen.duggan@ketteringschools.org.