June 30, 2011
By Jason Misner
COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, HDSB STAFF
Oakville Trafalgar High School started a club designed to make their school more inclusive and a place where students of all abilities can learn together and feel welcome. They eat together, bowl, listen to music, watch movies and even play Wii. The club has proven so successful in the school it received an award from the provincial government.
In April, Lunch Buddies Club members attended an award ceremony in Toronto to receive The June Callwood Outstanding Achievement Award for Voluntarism, which recognizes leadership, innovation and creativity in volunteerism, and community service. It was presented by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Late journalist and author June Callwood was one of Canada's most well-known social activists. She was committed to issues affecting children and women, founding or co-founding more than 50 Canadian social action organizations.
The Lunch Buddies Club is a group of student volunteers who provide leadership for their peers with developmental challenges. These student volunteers offer a creative and enthusiastic experience by acting as role models where they help to foster good social habits. They plan and implement activities such as, movie day, music appreciation, interactive games, and craft projects.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of dedicated people,” states the Lunch Buddies Club website.
Club member Jake, in Grade 10, says the club has been a “fun” experience for him, noting he has brought in Elvis Presley music for the club to enjoy.
Volunteers Michael Robinson, Grade 10, Morgan Ranney, Grade 11 and Jon Snow, Grade 11, say spending time with fellow students like Jake has been great.
“We can meet different people,” Robinson says. “It’s good for them.”
“I realized people are having so much fun so I joined,” says Ranney, who is thinking about a career in special education.
Snow says “it’s good way to spend your lunch, hanging with other people. It’s a good experience to get to know everyone.”
This school year, the four-day-a-week Lunch Buddies Club assisted the local food bank with food donations and they also helped to prepare the bags for the fall grocery store food drive. The club has partnered with the OT environmental club in the "litterless lunch" initiative by designing and marketing reusable cotton lunch bags with a Lunch Buddies logo.
Karen Eschlboeck, educational assistant at OT, initiated the program to help make students feel even more part of the community. Around 35 students will have participated in the club by year’s end, she says.
"I have people offer to take Jake to the football game,” she says, adding leadership, communication and tolerance are a few of the qualities volunteers learn though the Lunch Buddies Club. “Even when they pass each other in the hall, they take time to stop and chat with them.”
Halton Region Chair Gary Carr also congratulated OT for what he thinks is a most impressive program.
“It is encouraging to see the youth of Halton actively participating in inclusive initiatives and becoming role models for both students and adults alike,” he wrote to the school. “Leadership skills demonstrated by the group’s members will serve them well in life.”