HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s the day before the Hamburg High School junior prom and the excitement is lingering in the air.
“It’s one thing to think about and another to experience it,” said Mitch Beiter, a buddy involved with DAWGS, Doing Activities with Great Students.
The group was created three years ago by student leaders, like Beiter, for students with special needs in the high school.
“I think it is connecting with the people who are having a hard time normally connecting with people,” said Beiter, a senior at the high school. “Just showing them a good time and having fun while doing it.”
“Everyone is part of the same school and we need to treat them all equally,” said Ashley Digati, a special education teacher at the high school and one of the advisers for DAWGS.
Being all-inclusive is one of the main missions for DAWGS. The activities they participate in range from getting coffee together after school, where the buddies will help the students with special needs count change, to going to school functions together.
“DAWGs is like the real world classroom,” said Beth Walters, another adviser for the group. “It’s the best teacher. You can’t teach about a situation by just putting a picture on the board and saying “What would you say if you were here?” You really have to experience it in order to problem solve, learn and grow.”
Walters said when the group formed a few years back, they never thought it would become what it is today.
“When we started DAWGS, someone said “And some day we will all go to the prom!'” said Walters.
And now that some day, is Saturday.
“I never been to a prom before,” said Genevieve Specht, a junior at the high school. “It’s my first time. I am very excited.”
Specht has Down’s Syndrome; Beiter is her buddy and also her prom date. She says she is excited to dance and wear her aqua dress.
While her anticipation is growing each minute, come Saturday, seeing the DAWGS students dressed up in their best attires, getting group pictures and hopping in the limo to the dance together will be a special moment for those who have watched them evolve through their involvement.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of these students and watching them grow,” said Digati. “Watching their confidence grow has been an amazing experience.”
“They’re so comfortable now asking to go to these events because they know there will be a friendly face at that event,” said Walters.