St. Anthony students take part in buddy breakfast at Blessed Trinity Academy
Thursday, January 23, 2020 | 12:01 AM
Once a month, Blessed Trinity Academy (BTA) students await invitations to the seemingly hottest event in town: a buddy breakfast with St. Anthony School students.
BTA hosts the St. Anthony School Program, an inclusive educational environment for children with Down syndrome, autism and other intellectual disabilities.
According to Lisa Mains, St. Anthony’s kindergarten through third-grade resource room teacher, her students attend general-education classes for most of their courses and receive assistance from paraprofessionals. They may stay in the resource room for math and reading. The teacher to student ratio is 3:1, Mains, said.
“I like her. She is amazing. She is my favorite teacher. She is so smart,” Sophia, Lawrence, 12, said of paraprofessional Lisa Sippel.
The students also work on social and motor skills and speech therapy weekly.
“It gives them a chance to interact with our children at their grade level and to learn typical behavior of their peers, which will help them achieve in their future education and jobs,” said Regina Brunner, fourth through eighth-grade resource room teacher.
The St. Anthony’s students are welcome to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports and band with the BTA students.
The integration inside and outside of the classroom has led to many friendships.
“Once a month, they get to pick a buddy from their typical classroom to have breakfast with,” Mains said. “It’s new and exciting.”
“It was fun to follow Julie (Schmithorst) around at the buddy breakfast,” Tess Martin said of the meal served within the resource room.
“When I went to the buddy breakfast, we read together,” Claire Bandurski said.
While BTA is the only North Hills school to offer the program, four additional elementary schools provide it, as well as three high schools and Duquesne University.
All of the schools participate in the annual Inclusive Games each spring.
The St. Anthony’s students attending BTA may invite a friend from the general-education program to participate with them.
“It was exciting because it made me feel like I was their friend,” Chloe Fettis, 11, said of attending the games three years consecutively.
“There are so many moments of seeing our students support and look out for the St. Anthony’s students, which is so cool,” Principal Moira Regan Edmiston said.
“They make our class complete,” student Savannah Vogel said.
The St. Anthony’s program has its own application and admissions process separate from BTA’s.
For more information, visit: stanthonykids.org.