By Your Side builds friendships

Club creates opportunities to connect


Zoe Ziessman

Junior Ben Duncan celebrates his team winning an activity during a By Your Side club meeting May 17. By Your Side finished their first in person year this school year.

Rachel Arkis and Abby Bartleson

After its first few years being online due to COVID-19, special education teacher Alaina Martin said that the inclusion program By Your Side has been able to reach its full potential now that classes are in person.

“It started virtually via Zoom and there were only a few kids,” Martin said. “They did dance parties and just hung out together on Zoom. Once we were able to meet in person a lot more people signed up, and now we meet during Park Connections on Wednesdays and there’s always a different activity the students lead.”

According to senior By Your Side Vice President Adam Gips, he likes having the opportunity to help bridge the gap between students with special needs and regular education students.

“I really enjoy reaching the two communities,” Gips said. “A lot of people separate (special ed and regular ed students) and it’s just nice that we don’t have that division within the club. We can participate in different activities together and just build friendships.”

Martin said By Your Side can be valuable for both students with special needs and students without. 

“A lot of the time my students aren’t in as many classes with a lot of their peers just because of what they need academically, so this allows them to spend time with other kids in the school that they might not normally meet, and the other students are able to connect with my students,” Martin said. “It’s a great opportunity for my students with special needs to spend time with their regular-ed peers.”

Junior Josh Madigan said he likes going to By Your Side to hang out with friends and unwind.

“I enjoy By Your Side because I am able to build relationships with people who I wouldn’t be able to interact with if it wasn’t for By Your Side,” Madigan said. “I also enjoy just being able to hangout with all the people in the club and get a break from the stress of school.”

According to Gips, not only is By Your Side a fun pastime, but it has also made significant contributions to students’ lives. 

“We have heard different people’s stories and it’s really inspiring to hear how their high school experiences changed for the better (because of By Your Side),” Gips said.

For those interested in joining By Your Side, it meets every Wednesday during Park Connections.