By: Ellen Jo Seals (Clinton Public School District)
What started as an unlikely friendship has blossomed into school-wide support for one of Northside Elementary's own.
Collett Hudson and A'myia Alexander met on Northside's playground last year. Their friendship continued as Collett's second-grade class partnered with A'myia's self-contained special education class for the Integrating Northside Special Populations Into Regular Education, or INSPIRE, art program.
"The whole point of this program is to bring the special education students together with the regular education students as much as possible," said Marigrace Clarke, special education teacher. "My students are exposed outside of the classroom every day, but until this point it has been rare that the regular education students really know what goes on inside my classroom with these children. That's what I want students to see."
The students work together to paint Clinton Arrow-themed canvases and sell them to raise funds for field trips. INSPIRE integrates learning with fun activities — and also brings students like Collett and A'myia together to form friendships.
Early in the fall semester, A'myia was involved in a serious car accident. She has been in and out of Batson Children's Hospital since then. Collett refused to let the distance separate her connection with A'myia. This third-grader asked her mom to coordinate several visits to see A'myia in the hospital.
When asked about her visits to see A'myia, Collett described them as "fun." On these visits, she and A'myia would go into the activity room where they painted together. On one occasion, Collett joined A'myia for therapy sessions.
Collett rallied Northside's gifted students to raise funds for A'myia's family. The classes made scarecrows to sell at the school-wide carnival in October. Clarke, A'myia's teacher, joined the efforts to support the family. She coordinated T-shirt sales that raised about $3,000.
"Building relationships with each other is very important to the Northside staff," said Principal Joy Tyner. "We intentionally spend time building community within our classrooms and our school. I've learned that strength lies in our differences, not our similarities."
A'myia's mother, Amina Griffin, said, "I appreciate everyone's support — financially and emotionally."
She expressed her gratitude for the love that has been shown to her and her family during this difficult season. She also said that A'myia is progressing. A'myia is talking more and hopes to walk again soon. Collett expects to visit A'myia more in the future.
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