Special students get Special Friends

By Katey Garrett

Divorce, poverty and addictions in the home are a few of many scenarios that can hinder the emotional and academic growth of elementary students.

Educators in Lindsay are taking a stand against becoming another statistic with the Special Friends program, created to enhance the educational experience and improve the bond between educators and students. The program started in February when Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary schools were awarded a grant that provides three months of funding.

A Jefferson Elementary classroom full of toys and educational tools is where each of the 38 students ranging from kindergarten to third grade meets with Special Friend, Blanca Duran, once a week for 30 minutes. The sessions of the program are from eight to 12 weeks and offer a supportive and non-judgmental relationship to each student, helping with self-esteem and communication.

&#8220Research has shown that the students really benefit from this program,” said Duran. &#8220Most of the kids are not at a high risk right now and our goal is to keep them that way.”

Because the program is new to Lindsay, Duran said that administrators and educators from the state are required to frequently check in and during their last visit, they told Duran that they were very impressed with the support that the school's administration is providing for the students. Duran said that although the reason behind each child's involvement in the program is important, the goal is to focus on growth through each situation, academically and emotionally empowering the students.

&#8220It's something that I think Lindsay really needs, mostly because of the poverty that we find in town and the kids really love the program,” said Duran. &#8220The grant is for three years and I hope that every three years we will get another grant and keep this program going. Our students need it.”

For more information about enrolling your student in the program, contact Blanca Duran at 562-6303.

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