Project Support Unifies Students


Bridget Cook

Freshmen Andre Pettis, Luxus Flowers and Nadia DiGeorgia walk with junior Maeve Cook through the high school halls on a Project Support scavenger hunt March 15.

Bathed in the glow of a mid-March afternoon, Room 133 bustled with activity. Gathering students about her, junior Lea Kayali produced a large manilla envelope, igniting everyone’s interest. “Today, we’re going to have a scavenger hunt,” Kayali announced. At Kayali’s direction, the members of Project Support embarked on the clue-led search. The hunt was an immediate hit — linking arms and hurrying down each hallway, every member was on the lookout for envelopes.

Shaker has a number of prominent clubs and organizations in the limelight. SGORR, GSA, Latin Club and Model UN are some of the most established at the high school. Just beneath the surface of these well-known clubs and activities lies another layer of organizations on their way to the top. Take, for instance, Project Support.

Project Support is a cooperative effort to create an environment for special education students to bond and spend time with the rest of the high school’s population. Supervisor and Intervention Specialist teacher Jessica Wilkes described Project Support as a social group for anyone of any ability level. “I think it’s great. The social experience for my students is wonderful,” Wilkes said. “They really learn best from their peers.”

Having supervised the club for several years, Wilkes enjoys the camaraderie the meetings build between students. “This year has been a really good year. We’ve had a board game party, made pizzas, decorated holiday cards, made sugar cookies, and we’re looking forward to a picnic in May,” Wilkes said.

Meeting once a month, the club is led this year by junior Lea Kayali, and has existed on and off at the high school for eleven years depending on student leadership. “Didi Shiloh approached me about leading Project Support at the end of last year,” Kayali said. “I work with kids with similar issues outside of school, so she knew I would be interested.”

Since inheriting the leadership position for Project Support, Kayali looks forward to her time spent at the once-monthly club. “Personally, [Project Support] puts a smile on my face,” Kayali said. “Everyone at the meetings really wants to be there. The students are so lovely there, and everyone’s just so happy and kind.”.

Kayali said that the mission of the club is to encourage social interaction and friendships between students of all walks of life.

“Honestly for me, I don’t want to make myself out to be doing a big huge job,” Kayali said. “I have a monthly commitment, but it hasn’t been too much work. I just want to get the word out and get more kids to come. “I bet if more people knew about this, more kids would come in.”

Junior Natalie Martin has been a member of Project Support since the beginning of the school year. “When Lea became the president was the first time I heard about it, so I just started this year. But I wish I had joined sooner,” Martin said.

Despite joining Project Support as a junior, Martin has already formed meaningful connections. “For me, I have really learned to understand how caring and compassionate the special education kids are and how much of a role model we are for them,” Martin said.

Freshman and member Nadia DiGeorgia enjoys Project Support’s positivity . “I have grown to love the kids and we have a relationship that is so much more fun than any of my other friends. Even after the worst day, just stopping by brings a smile to my face,” DiGeorgia said. “I mean, how couldn’t it?”

Unaffected by age, ability or any other factor, the relationships forming at Project Support each month are exemplary. Though the the meetings are brief, the message behind Project Support is a powerful one. Embodying companionship, tolerance and kindness in its purest form, Project Support is well on its way to becoming another beloved and successful club in the Shaker community.

This story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 4 (April 2014) of The Shakerite on pages 22 and 23.


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