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Senior students share kayaking skills with special needs ‘buddies’

    About 20 Saint Stephen’s College Year 12 students have spent their final school term as ‘buddy’ kayaking coaches for special needs guests from across the Gold Coast, organised through the local charity JAMS (Joy for all Minds).

    The five-week Special Needs Kayaking Program is part of the College’s Year 12 PE curriculum that has been running for more than 10 years.

    Head of Health and Physical Education, Libby Wood, says the program is enlightening and eye-opening for everyone involved.

    “Mark Matthews is the coordinator of the kayaking program Zero Limits and the Director of JAMS, through which he organises the schools and groups each year to take part. The College students are involved in a unit where they act as buddy coaches for special needs guests and take them paddling and engaging in fun activities on the Lake at Regatta Waters. On completion of this last session, I heard back from Mark who said that already the special needs clients are talking about the program for next year and can’t wait as it is a major highlight in their lives,” said Mrs Wood.

    “When you ask who gets the most out of it? I would say our students as it changes their perspective on life. It makes them aware of the diversity in society and that diversity is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a big eye opener and the students love it. As part of the assignment they have to write a mock letter to the Headmaster advocating for the continuation of the program as part of the APS (Associated Private Schools) sports.”

    Student, Olivia Day, said the one-on-one time with special needs guests helped her realise how derogatory it was to use to certain terms and words that were common teenage speak.

    “Since the year 12 kayaking program begun, I have seen an enormous change in my mood and motivation. From the minute I hop back on the bus, I look forward to next week where I can come back and kayak with the guests again. It certainly is the highlight of my week.”

    Student, Kayla Shepard, says it was as worthwhile to the students as it was to the special needs guests.

    “This program is valuable to both the special needs and people like myself… I believe this program gives students like myself the opportunity to learn and grow whilst it provides people with autism the access and equity they deserve.”

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