Disabled adults volunteer time at school with disabled youth

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Adults with special needs are helping children with special needs. Three volunteers at Granite Elementary School are making not only the holidays cheerful – they’re doing it year-round with everything from cleaning the lunch trays to teaching reading.

What’s so special about this program at Granite Elementary is that these adults with special needs are setting a good example for all of the students, not just the students with special needs. But when you talk with them, they say the students are enriching their lives.

As students drop off their lunch trays to be cleaned, it’s high fives for Robert Anzer.

Anzer, the school’s dishwasher, said it’s the best part of his day. He volunteers his time specifically for this task so the kids don’t have to use Styrofoam.

Anzer helps to keep costs down, the school “green,” and lunch time a little healthier for the kids. Anzer said the kids do as much for him as he does for them.

“They help me to feel good,” he said.

After lunch, it’s story time with Heather Whitehouse.

Whitehouse said volunteering is a gift and she continues to do it because the kids make her happy.

“The true meaning of Christmas is family and when I see all of you I feel like I have little brothers and sister with me,” she said to a class of extended core students after she finished reading them a book.

For one-on-one lessons and reading tests, students work with Jenny Perri. She said volunteering at Granite Elementary is her favorite part of the day.

This program and the volunteers are a sign of how far things have come for people with special needs.

“Forty-five years ago when parents brought home a special needs child they were told to institutionalize them, and now they’re reading to our kids here and actually teaching our kids to read,” said Laura Bossard a teacher for the extended core.

The school is always looking for volunteers of all backgrounds and abilities. People interested in volunteering can get more information here: http://www.canyonsdistrict.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=34&Itemid=167.