AHS student’s program provides outlet for special needs community

ASHLAND, Ore– A local high school student is making a difference in the community and helping individuals with special needs at the same time.

If you’ve been to Ashland’s Snack Shack  in the past couple weeks, chances are you’ve seen something new happening – and met the kids who are making a difference.

“It’s just a really good way to integrate people into a society where usually they would be left out or left behind or not fully immersed,” said Sierra Repp, a junior at Ashland High School.

As the Snack Shack opens for baseball season at Hunter Park, Repp – who has volunteered there for several years – saw it as the perfect place to start a program that helps individuals with special needs get a chance to socialize and work with the community.

“I just kind of decided this would be a great place to do something great for the community,” she said.

With permission from the Ashland Little League board, Repp worked with her friend Zahra Detweiler, a senior at AHS who experiences Down syndrome, to create the program. Together they chose the menu and organized staff shifts with individuals with exceptionalities and their peer partners.

As a volunteer with the organization, Project UP, Repp met Detweiler and became good friends. Repp says she felt, because of those connections, the need to give back to the kids in the program.

“I love it. They’re all my friends and they’ve helped me a lot,” she said. “Just grow and find myself and I really just wanted to give back to this community.”

Already six weeks in, Repp has made this program her senior project but it’s become something more. For the kids and their peer-partners, it’s been a fun time. To parent’s such as Shahrzad Sheibani, it’s great to see her daughter, Anahita, having fun.

“She feels like she’s helping out,” said Sheibani. “So she’s really part of the community and she’s helping kids. She’s helping kids get their snacks and not get tired during baseball. So she kind of feels like she’s another team member.”

To the individuals with special needs themselves, it’s an empowering moment that lets others know – they matter.

“We help them get to know what is best for our community,” said Detweiler. “And that it’s OK to have a special need.”

 

 

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