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Creating Community at School

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By Your Side works with schools to enhance social opportunities and visibility for students with special needs.

The heart of our program lies in creating safe and supportive lunchtime spaces for students. Especially for students who feel isolated or socially anxious, finding a friend with whom one can share, laugh, and open up can be liberating and empowering. For this reason, we establish regular, weekly lunch programs at each school with which we work. We also host school- and community-wide events aimed at dispelling stigma and fostering belonging.

Each student participant—with or without special needs—joins a small cohort of buddies. Through weekly lunchtime interactions and structured extracurricular and after-school activities, we help each student feel embraced by their cohort and community. Our programs help every student at participating schools see beyond disability and relate across differences. At the same time, we help students develop the confidence and social skills to build meaningful relationships. Ultimately, each student—with or without special needs—serves as both teacher and learner, discovering together how to build school community.

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Our team works intimately with faculty and student champions to facilitate its programs. These leaders have access to our curriculum, funding, and human resources and have support from our personnel in guiding the implementation process and coordinating student training and professional development.

If you'd like to learn more about the program or are interested in bringing it to your school, please contact us using the form at the bottom of this page. We can't wait to hear from you.

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One of the saddest casualties of COVID-19 has been the loss of school community that comes from students interacting directly on campus. These losses can be especially hard for students with special needs, who may rely on in-person learning to find friends and feel embraced by their peers. It's also difficult for students to discover diverse peer groups and meet those from different backgrounds when in-person learning is gone. By Your Side is working to bridge those gaps.

Since the start of the pandemic, By Your Side has adopted substantial virtual programming, bringing students together for weekly lunches and activities. In fact, By Your Side has launched successfully at several new schools since the pandemic began. We hope that the next months offer our kids the same growth and community they'd experience in person. It's what they each deserve.

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Get in touch with By Your Side to learn more about our work and ask how your school can get involved!

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