Baron Buddies say boo

Baron Buddies program holds trick-or-treating event


Jechaenna Velazco

On Oct. 31 at Bonita Vista High, Baron Buddies go around school trick or treating. Psychology teacher Laura Lowery dressed as Mary Poppins and hands out candy to a pair of Baron Buddies.

Cielo Muniz Sigala, Opinion Editor

Every year on October 31, Bonita Vista Highs (BVH) Baron Buddies plans a trick-or-treat event that allows special education and general education students to pair up and go around the school to receive candy from various teachers and staff members. Baron Buddies has been going on at BVH for a few decades now. The purpose of this club is to incorporate special education students in school activities and allow them to have different relationships with general education students. 

“[Trick or treating] builds climate and community and it bonds all different students together. A lot of the special education students don’t know whose classroom is what, so it’s a nice introduction, meeting new teachers and making new friends. It’s really a wonderful bonding experience,” Accelerated Biology and IB Environmental Systems and Society teacher Jennifer Ekstein said.

During the trick-or-treat event volunteers were impacted and honored for what they contributed and offered. The volunteers go to teachers’ classrooms and wait to pass out candy to the trick-or -treating Baron Buddies and their partners.

“They’re giving up their free time to help other students. That is the most noble thing you can do. They’re getting a wonderful friendship, relationship, mentoring and leadership skills,” Ekstein said.

This event takes place so the special education students get to bond and interact with different teachers and students, allowing them to know and feel more a part of the school. Before this event occurred, special education students and general education bonded by creating their own accessories to walk around with.

“The peers [general education] help out our buddies [special education] decorate their trick or treat bag. It’ll be a lunch bag and they’ll decorate it with some Halloween stickers, coloring [and] writing their name on it,”  Moderate teacher at BVH and Baron Buddies advisor Rommyna  Keeran said.

Whilst Baron Buddies plans events like these, there is a hope that both special education students and general education can find something to bond over but also to build a relationship that will benefit and impact all students. Having a program that has incorporated different aspects of all lives has brought out the diversity in BVH.

“It builds one-on-one friendships and it’s created here in this school. When students graduate or students exit, they still have that bond that they hang onto, they become family,

— Moderate teacher and Baron Buddies advisor Rommyna Keeran.

“General education gets to meet a different population of the school that is their peers, their same age. And then our students, the special needs students, love it because then they get to make friends,” BVH moderate to severe teacher and Baron Buddies advisor, Darci Comers Davies said.

Baron Buddies was a national program known as “Best Buddies” and through the years arrived at Bonita, later called Baron Buddies. Davies recalls her time when she attended BVH where the program was enacted and has still been going on. She explains how BVH has been one of the only schools with a variety of special education programs and classes.

“When I went to high school here in the nineties, this was the biggest population [and] this was the only school that had special needs students. Then the other schools started opening it up,” Davies said. “This school is still the biggest for this population. We have nine classes and other schools may have up to four or five or just one or two.”

Baron Buddies has been able to contribute a lot to BVH and its community such as creating a fun and inclusive way for general education and special education students to communicate and dive into each other’s perspectives of life without any judgment.

“[There is] social interaction that they have, and it builds on relationships,” Keeran said.

The Baron Buddies club meets multiple times a month in which the general education students and special education students pair up and start preparing for their next activity. Keeran and Davies both watch over and plan the club’s activities. They try to find a variety of activities the students can have fun with.

“The club meets twice a month. We meet during lunch and we let our students know ahead of time. The buddies and then the peer buddies, general education, come and meet with them at lunch,” Davies said.

The club allows special education students to be included with general education in their school environment. Ekstein is just one out of many people that believe there’s a certain negative stigma that impacts special education students. Specifically, on how special education students have a different lifestyle, therefore becoming disconnected from the rest of their peers.   

“Unfortunately it’s isolating [and] there isn’t much interaction. It’s really important to learn [and] tolerate all different people from all different walks of life. It’s a tremendous community within the school, everybody’s learning from each other. And it’s quite a beautiful thing that we have this program bonding. It’s a great experience for both students,” Ekstein said.

Overall the goal of this program is for all students to feel like they belong, contribute and play a part on school campus. Baron Buddies has created a way for special education students to feel loved and acknowledged and have relationships they could not find on their own.

“It builds one-on-one friendships and it’s created here in this school. When students graduate or students exit, they still have that bond that they hang onto, they become family,” Keeran said.