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Stories from Students, Parents, and Teachers

Testimonials: Meet the Team


BYS Alumnus, '18

“By Your Side is a place where I can feel safe, welcomed, supported, and cared for by everyone there, especially my best friend and a member of the club, Jackson Stewart, who has all of the amazing qualities of a friend, and shows the true meaning of the club. By Your Side was created to help and support students with special needs and learning disabilities to make friends, gain self-esteem, and of course feel cared for as the name implies. Personally, I was one of those students, and thanks to this club, I became more confident, strong, and made friends, including Jackson, who is such a kind, caring, and amazing individual. By Your Side is a club that should be included in every school, and even college, because everyone deserves to feel supported and cared for whether they have special needs or not. I am very thankful that this club was at my school. I am also very thankful to have an amazing friend like Jackson.”



Speech Language Pathologist and Special Education Instructor

“I knew some of the students on campus who ate alone. I knew the students who wanted friends, but didn’t know how to make friends. I knew the students who were a little different and had difficulty with social skills. Once I brought these students to the BYS club, I saw a change in all of them. These students seemed to become more confident, they liked coming to the club, and they all participated in the outings. All students involved became comfortable with each other and friendships began to form. Additionally, the parents were thrilled because their son or daughter had a place to go for lunch and people to eat with. By Your Side would be very beneficial to other school campuses. I have worked in Special Education at a school setting for eight years. I have seen the value of By Your Side club for all students involved. I truly believe that this club gave students a better school experience, as well as built their self-esteem.”



BYS Parent, '21

"My son Ben really loves this group! It has been amazing for him to have these new friends and to feel connected. He loves going to school and it is so great for him to have a group of friends to sit with at lunch and he looks forward to each time they meet. They met to play frisbee a couple of weekends and he was so excited. He loves being a part of the group chats. It has made such a difference in life! He was doing distance learning for a good part of the year and could not wait until the next Zoom meeting. Now that he is back in school and has these friends, he feels part of the group, and that had made his school so enjoyable. Inclusion is everything!! We are so grateful for this awesome group of students who want to make a difference!! We hope it continues to grow! Thank you BYS!"



BYS Alumna, '18

“My most significant takeaway from BYS was learning that it’s okay to have different interactions with different people. My conversations were indeed very different, but they weren’t any less genuine. Through that process, I made friendships that I cherished. Through BYS, people also became more conscious about the remarks they were making. I, personally, began noticing how often I jokingly called a friend “stupid” or the R-word. Even when humor isn’t intended to hurt someone, it can still negatively impact people. We learned to think about the power of our words.”



BYS Parent, '18
Former President, Beverly Hills Education Association

“Through the club [my son] found his first best friend (another young man with special needs who was also in the club). Today [my son] and his friend enjoy a fulfilling relationship based on shared interest, respect and loyalty... The encouragement and support [he] gained through By Your Side gave him the confidence to try many new experiences that have benefited him personally and professionally. This attitude comes from being surrounded by students who saw value in [him] as a person, who treated him with compassion and understanding and accepted that [he] may communicate differently from others, but at his core he has the same wants and needs as any other person... to have a friend and to be a friend. The By Your Side programs gave him both.”



High School Biology Teacher and Special Education Instructor

“If it were possible, I would invite you to come to Beverly Hills High School on any Wednesday to see this club in action… It is perhaps the one time during the week that our special needs students feel ‘typical’ in terms of social interactions. There is laughter, discussion, support and other typical teenage banter. Both groups of students obviously benefit from this social hour. Our society could benefit from observing these students just being high school aged kids.”



BYS Parent, '20

“My son Abie loves his By Your Side buddies. The program has helped him form better connections with his own classmates and increase his overall feeling of belonging at school. We are very grateful for these kind of activities that help everyone feel accepted, included and above all appreciated for who they are.“



BYS Alumnus, '20

“By Your Side is easily one of the best high school programs out there! I had so much fun every week and met so many students whom I’d otherwise never get to know. It was so special to see how much the students in the program valued building relationships with each other. I love how the program is designed to facilitate meaningful friendships among members while still being accessible to everyone on campus. You should definitely join the program at your school—you’ll have an amazing experience!“

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