BUDS prom gives special students a special experience

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Kingsport, TN (WJHL) – It was a party of epic proportions at Allandale Mansion Thursday morning.

Students in the Dobyns-Bennett Lifeskills program and their senior BUDS (Buddies Understanding Different Students) held their 7th annual Alternative Prom.

The students arrived to the prom in limos from F&L Limo, got pictures made, then danced the day away before enjoying a pizza party.

As the idea of retired Lifeskills teacher Denise Oglesby, the alternative prom originated as a way to celebrate the senior students’ final year. According to Oglesby, the senior Lifeskills students knew about the school prom, and since her students loved to dance, she thought an alternative prom would be a great celebration.

The Rotary Club of Kingsport Downtown hosted this year’s event, which was first held in 2010.

“You come alive inside,” said Rotary President, Dr. Joe Ley, “you see that life is precious and it’s precious to everybody, and we have to celebrate all lives that don’t all have it easy.”

“They can be who they are without any judgement as other people would see them,” said Senior BUDS student Macy Johnson, “that’s why we’re here, to help them embrace themselves and show off who they are.”

The Life Skills program is a comprehensive educational program designed for students who are eligible for special services due to severe mental disabilities and/or multi disabilities.  While each student has an educational program that is tailored to his or her individual learning needs, a yearly curriculum focus is also addressed.

Emphasis placed on communication skills, and the ultimate goal for these students is to be able to communicate their wants and needs in order that those unfamiliar with them may understand them. Prevocational/vocational skills are also given much attention during the school year.

“BUDS” are selected 12th grade peers who give up one class period each day to work in the Life Skills classroom.  The BUDS Buddies Understanding Different Students) program, under the direction of Special Needs Teacher Denise Oglesby, originated in January 2007 for the purpose of providing a reverse inclusion program for her Life Skills students and offering a unique learning experience for the peer tutors.

While both groups benefit from the program, the main goals have been “to remove or minimize barriers to social inclusion in the community, home, and within individuals” and help students develop a respect for differences.  According to Oglesby, “these 12th grade peers may enter as “BUDS” but they leave as friends.”

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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