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No wiggle room

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Special education students lead Relay For Life at Buford Elementary

By Greg Summers

There’s a Relay For Life sign leaning on the desk just outside Room 105 at Buford Elementary School.

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When the new school first opened, Room 105 was a teacher’s lounge. Trust me, I know, having spent my share of time in it assisting teachers while fulfilling the volunteer hours requirement for Discovery School.

But now, the Bunn coffee maker, refrigerator and miscellaneous teacher supplies are gone.

It has been transformed into a classroom for Tammy Roberts’ and Shirley Jones’ 14 special education students.The students inside the odd-shaped, cramped class with the “Welcome Aboard” seagull-embellished banner above the door don’t complain about the tight space.

Despite the lack of wiggle room, you will not hear anyone grumble. Right now, classwork, counting money and making Relay For Life paper chains leave little time for bickering.

In Room 105, there is always work to do.

When it comes to great causes supported by the Buford Elementary School student body, every effort starts in Room 105, which is the way Roberts and Jones like it.

For the last several weeks, Buford Elementary students have sold the links for 25 cents each as a 2010 Relay For Life fundraiser. 

Right now, the ceiling of the main hallway is covered with a construction paper chain of more than 3,400 links that grows by the day.

While many of the school’s 832 students are doing their part, the special education students are the ones leading the charge.

When I asked about the role of this class at the school, Principal Sandra Jones-Izzard almost started crying. She is proud of them and has every right to feel that way.

Jones-Izzard said their effort means the rest of us don’t have any excuse for not helping.

“I stood out in the hallway this morning just watching them walk underneath all those links on the way to class and their expressions were absolutely priceless,” she said. “It’s just awesome to see them jump into everything here and get involved.

“These efforts make them feel that they are a part of everything we do here and they certainly are,” she said.

And from stacking and boxing canned goods for HOPE of Lancaster to making the Relay links, it is all hands-on, Roberts said.

“You talk about some hard-working kids, be here at Thanksgiving and Christmas when all the canned goods start coming in,” Roberts said. “And the Relay For Life is no different.”

For example, when the change is collected and turned in, it could be taken to Founders Federal Credit Union to be rolled and counted. But Buford Elementary’s 14 special education students rolled $150 worth of quarters by hand and counted and wrapped more than $250 this week.   

“The kids are just tickled to be able to help,” Roberts said. “We try to get as many as possible involved in projects like Relay For Life.

“They are young and might not understand or know what cancer is, but they understand what it means to help people,” Roberts said. 

It doesn’t end there, either. If you stop by the Buford Elementary School tent at tonight’s Relay For Life at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, some of them will be helping make sno-cones. Last year, three of Roberts’ and Jones’ students stayed all night.

“I really hope it instills a sense of volunteerism in all of them,” Roberts said. “If nothing else, they’ll recognize the importance of helping.

“Even if they can’t give financially, they can help by giving their time,” she said.

Next week, the grade at Buford Elementary School that raised the most money through the “Links of Love” will be treated to an ice cream sundae party. But they won’t be the only ones. The special education students will get one, too.

Roberts said they’ve rightfully earned it.

“When it comes time to celebrate, we are going to celebrate, too,” she said.  

On second thought, the students in Room 105 aren’t special, they are exceptional.

Their actions in a small, cramped classroom taught me something this week, too.

What’s going on there doesn’t give the rest of us very much wiggle room when it comes to excuses for not doing our part.

–Greg Summers is features editor of The Lancaster News