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With State Funding Secured, Tewksbury Schools To Continue Best Buddies, Project Pohelo

Aug 13, 2015 04:54AM ● Published by Bill Gilman

Best Buddies

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(Editor's note: The following information was submitted by the Tewksbury Public Schools.)

Local legislators have secured state funding for two local outstanding programs. Best Buddies and Project Pohelo have had local funding included the state FY 2016 state budget.

Tewksbury Memorial High School will participate in the Best Buddies program that will have a state grant of $12,000 to utilize for participants and new initiatives. Project Pohelo will receive a state grant of $20,000 for expenses and program activities.

“This shows what can happen when you work together with the School Committee and Superintendent John O’Connor. Working together we overrode the Governor’s veto to keep the programs going," said state Rep. James Mecelli D-Wilmington. "House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop and House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey were instrumental in assisting me in the process. In addition, state Rep. (Jim) Lyons, R-Andover, and state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, were very helpful as well.”

Brian Aylward, Best Buddies TMHS Chapter Faculty Advisor, stated that the goal of the program is to bring 1 to 1 partnerships of general education students with students who have intellectual disabilities. Benefits of the program include access to field trip locations, national Best Buddies programs and resources, and inclusion to participate in the Best Buddies Bike Challenge.

Aylward thanked School Committee members Krissy Polimeno and Brian Dick for their encouragement on the establishment of the program.

“Last year we had 15-20 students with disabilities participate and we would like to have many more," Aylward said. "The students participated in movie night, game night, laser tag, and bowling. The 2014-15 program concluded with a cookout in June."

The incoming program officers for the 2015-16 school year will be President Alexis Brincklow, Vice President Amanda Aylward, Secretary Julia Sessa and Treasure Irene Houde. 

“We had a really fun year," said Amanda Aylward. "The most rewarding part of the program for us was to see the happiness on the faces of the students who went bowling.”

Amanda indicated that she was one of the students who participated in the National Best Buddies Convention. “The convention was awesome. We met new people from all over the world and we heard new ideas to make our program better," she said.

Project Pohelo, formerly Camp Pohelo, will continue summer programs and activities for students of the Tewksbury Public Schools who have Individual Education Plans. The 45-year-old program is conducted by the TPS Community Services Department and led by Kristin Brekalis. 

Students of the Tewksbury Pubic Schools are very fortunate to have two great programs to participate in. 

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