Four years ago Shepard welcomed a P.E. class that paired up our general educated juniors and seniors (mentors) with students from our special programs (buddies)-which allows students the chance to experience physical fitness, social interactions, the promotion of inclusion and equality of all students, and friendship! This class is Shepard’s Power P.E. Class!
Every Monday the mentors talk with their buddies about how things are going and then they submit a journal entry that reflects on the previous week. They then are able to complete a full body fitness activity which allows them to exercise their whole bodies. The rest of the week varies between partner workouts, station exercises, and whole group yoga or sports. Similar to other P.E. classes they have different units such as basketball, team building, swimming, volleyball, soccer, yoga, dance, etc.
Power P.E. has had a special effect on everyone involved, “Being able to teach this class has really shown me what wonderful, compassionate and talented students that we have in this building,”said Power P.E teacher Ashley Lythberg.“Students have shown that they really understand what inclusion and equality is all about and they have displayed it in ways that I could not have imagined…It make me very proud to be an Astro and to work with such an outstanding group of students!” Lythberg also explained how she has noticed so many students receive a positive benefit from this program. She has witnessed new friendships form that have extended beyond the gym and classroom, and she described this program as a unique experience for some mentors, considering some have even changed their long-term career goals to stay involved with programs like Special Olympics or jobs that involve working with people with disabilities.
Power P.E. is also involved with Special Olympics. At Shepard we have three different Special Olympics teams; soccer, basketball, and track and field-if the students are involved in these activities they are allowed to practice for those during Power P.E. class. Mentors not only help their buddies prepare for their games they also attend the games, to help their buddies out if needed and cheer them on.
The annual assembly in the gym-that occurs in the winter-allows students to cheer on their Power P.E. classmates when they play in a Special Olympics basketball game to help raise money for our Polar Plunge team which donates money to Special Olympics Illinois.
If you want to be involved in Power P.E. you have some competition! Currently Power P.E. has 63 mentors and 46 buddies, and it is offered as a regular P.E option. You will receive the same credit as you would in any other P.E. class. You can attempt to sign up for Power P.E. during course selection by filling out an application which is on the counseling page on the Shepard website. Your attendance and discipline will be reviewed, and they will be receiving teacher feedback and recommendations.
There has also been a waiting list due to the high demand to join Power P.E. the past couple years, but don’t let that discourage you! There are other activities to get involved with like different social events and Special Olympics that even include some students from our special programs.