By Sophie Dominguez
During a normal school day at Batavia High School, the field house is primarily known as a place for P.E. classes like Accelerated P.E. or Personal Fitness. However, many are oblivious to another special class that takes place there: the PE Leadership program.
The PE Leadership program is a class that allows juniors and seniors (known in the class as the “partners”), to work closely with students in the special education program (the “athletes”). While these two types of students are usually separated in the educational setting, the leadership program gives them the chance to work together and create close bonds, according to those involved.
Throughout the week, the class takes place in different places and the students do different activities. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the class can be seen smiling and laughing as they sing songs and learn dances with each other.
“I love choir because it’s fun and I like to dance, sing, and learn new songs,” said “athlete” Cody Bondurant.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the class walks and talks on the track and participates in games and workouts. Some of their units include floor hockey, football and tennis.
“I like playing basketball with my friends,” said athlete DeJa Bailey.
Many of the partners in the class speak very positively about P.E. leadership, and encourage other students to take it. It has even inspired some to choose special education as a career choice.
“If I would’ve never taken this class, I would have never known that I could possibly go into special education when I’m older,” said “partner” Emma Zahner. “It really helps you become a leader and learn how to problem solve. You meet people that you never would’ve met before and strengthens your bond with the people you did previously know.”
Before PE Leadership became a class, most of the time students in the special education program would sit in the same class all day with the same students. While most general education students switch between four classes, and meet new people in every class, “athletes” were not given that same variety. The PE Leadership program has given them a chance to get a change of setting and widen their circle of peers, according to PE Leadership teacher Angela Fuqua.
“Instead of just being in one class all day, the ‘athletes’ become a part of the Bulldog spirit,” Fuqua said. “I see a lot of our athletes going to all our games and cheering at basketball games. A few years ago all of them would just be in one classroom all day. Now they’re really becoming a part of the culture of our school.”
And the bond between athletes and their partners is not limited to just in the classroom. In the hallways of the high school, partners can be seen saying hello to their athletes as they pass by. Some of the bonds made in the class have even led to friendships outside of the school. Athlete DeJa Bailey and “partner” Catherine Johnson can be seen laughing together as they share a drink at Starbucks. With the Leadership program, athletes are paired with people their own age that they can recognize outside of their program.
While every member of the class has described the class in a positive light, every class comes with some difficulties. The class is not always easy and fun for the athletes and the partners.
“What makes the class hard is that it can test your patience sometimes,” Zahner said. “You have to take a different approach to some issues that would normally be easy for you, and sometimes you have to problem solve very quickly.”
Members of the class have confirmed that the difficulties they experience in the class are a learning experience, and they are well worth the positive moments they recieve. Fuqua highly encourages students to take this class because she believes it is a unique and special opportunity that can change a student’s life.
“You’re really focused on yourself at this age, and this class helps you look beyond yourself. I see so much growth in the partners throughout the semester as they work with the athletes. Seeing that happen is one of my favorite things about teaching the class,” Fuqua said. “The partners write articles to their parents for their homework. They talk about their athlete and what they’re working on in class. A lot of the partners discuss how this class has really changed their life.”
Many partners feel that this class is different than any other class at BHS. They say it is a place where they can escape the struggles of their own lives and focus on their partner and creating a bond with them.
“What I like is that you come to this class and the outside world it just doesn’t exist. Everything you’re doing in this class is in the moment and you don’t think about anything outside the class,” said partner Hayley Stoops.
The PE leadership program will continue to be a class at BHS where partners and athletes can learn from each other and create bonds with each other. Every person we spoke to encouraged this as a class choice for students incoming as juniors and seniors.