r “An incredible day at Diamond Fork Junior High School!” was the reaction of one helper who attended the Nebo School District-wide Special Education Extravaganza. The day was full of excitement and encouragement for all those in attendance. Under the direction of Jo Edan Parker (special education teacher) and Linda Lewis (former PE teacher), the event was more spectacular than they had anticipated.
What began as a dream to have a special needs class participate in an intramural program has become an anticipated event that involves every junior high special needs student in the Nebo district. Each year, the extravaganza has become more popular and more involved. Eventually this program developed into a peer tutor conference involving numerous students from a host school as well as from each junior high in the district. In the past 10 years, this event has involved several thousand students. This year, 112 special needs students and approximately 142 peer tutors, timers, score keepers and helpers participated in the 14 events. Peer tutors escorted special needs students through sports events such as high jump, running long jump, softball throw and a 100-meter race.
Students also participated in several carnival type games and enjoyed craft booths including face painting, nail painting and creating art work on bracelets and canvas bags.
The awards assembly after lunch honored eight students with medals for placing in the sporting events. They were: First Place High Jump, Destiny Velazquez. First Place High Jump, Dallon Stubblefield. First Place Running Long Jump, Ashlyn Jackman. First Place Softball Throw, Dallon Stubblefield. Second Place Softball Throw, Kevin Areche. First Place Softball Throw, Ashley Mott. First Place 100 Meter, Carter Massey. First Place 100 Meter, Sierra Hudson.
New this year was an electrifying dance. Brenda Burr, principal at Diamond Fork Junior, taught the students the electric slide, and all the participants put their dance skills in motion.
Lewis and Parker thanked all those who took part in planning and participating in this event including Holli Averett, PE teacher at Diamond Fork Junior, and her first period class; Scott Buck and his third period class; Brenda Burr, Pam Norton, Mike Larsen, Kelly Anderson, Marlene Anderson, Anita Stewart, Wayne and Marge Lindsey; and the teachers and technicians who work with these special individuals every day.
Lewis emphasized that the peer tutors will remember this extravaganza for the rest of their lives. She said, “It is not uncommon for students who have served as peer tutors in the past to come back and thank us for letting them be a participant in the extravaganza. Some of these students were so impressed with their experience that they are now studying to work with children with special needs. Coordinating this event with Miss Parker is a highlight of my year. Having been retired for four years, I feel it a privilege that the district still allows me to coordinate this event. The students are wonderful and show so much compassion for their peers and fellow students. This day will live on in their lives for a long time.”
Parker said, “This is a time when our kids come together and associate with others to just have fun and get away from their typical day in the classroom. It is a growing experience for all those involved, especially for those who serve as peer tutors. As mentioned by Coach (Lewis), this is truly a lifetime experience, and I’ve looked forward to this day every year for the past 10 years. Our goal this year was to give our kids a taste of the meaning behind this year’s district theme, ‘I Choose to Matter.’ I think we may have accomplished this.”