Berkeley Middle School’s Unified program builds bonds and creates environment of inclusion

Cool School

It is disability awareness week at Berkeley Middle School.  The school received a well deserved recognition for a special program that is unifying students.  We’re in Berkeley county for our Cool School of the week.

Special and genuine bonds are formed at Berkeley Middle School.  Berkeley Middle School is  recognized as a national banner Unified Champion School, one of only two middle schools in the state to receive this honor.  Principal Mike Wilkerson says, “Our general education kids work directly with our special education students in P.E., music, and art.  They form relationships and bonds, and work with those kids directly on a daily basis in the classroom.”
 
BMS has more than 13-hundred students in sixth through eighth grade.  The school’s three successful unified classes; Unified P.E., Unified Music, and Unified Art create an environment of inclusion on campus.  Eighth-grade student Payton Anderson says, “Everybody takes them for who they are, don’t judge them. It makes me smile, makes me happy they make my day better every single day.”
 
The Unified programs help special education students develop fine motor, coordination, and verbal skills.  Seventh-grade student Carl Sole says, “My Unified buddy helps me out every single day.”  It also develops strong leadership and interpersonal skills for general education students.  Eighth grade student Lanayah Johnson says, “This is my partner.  We don’t just teach them, they teach us.  We lead them, but they lead us.  We learn different skills from each other, which helps us both.”

P.E. teacher Coach Matt Deacon received a champion award from the Special Olympics.  He says students take ownership of the program.  Coach Deacon says, “This is Unified P.E., and what it is in general ed kids work with special needs students, and what we do is we train for the Special Olympics, and it’s a character building team building class.”

Moncks Corner Mayor Michael Lockliear says the town is working to build a Miracle League Field for students. He says the school’s Unified programs form lasting bonds. He says, “Isn’t it an awesome program, the Unified program with principal Wilkerson implemented here is wonderful. You see the buddy system, with a non special needs child helping a special needs child. They’re breaking the barriers right there.”

Students are embracing the opportunity. Principal Wilkerson says, “There is an application process.  We screen the students to make sure. It takes a special kind of student to work with our special needs population. We make sure we put the right kids in the program. It’s a very competitive program. We actually have a waiting list. We have to turn students away. It’s such a popular class that everybody wants to be in.”

Coming up Friday on News 2, we’ll present Berkeley Middle School with our Cool School award.

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