For four months Shaker Junior High School eighth grader, Kara Quackenbush, walked to Blue Creek Elementary after school to assist with the sixth grade musical. From the start, Kara bonded with one of the special needs students who wanted to participate. She says their friendship started with a simple question.
“The first day I went over to him and asked him if he needed any help,” said Kara.
Kara’s mother, Heidi Quackenbush, has directed the musical for six years, but this year, witnessed something extra special.
“They instantly bonded,” she said. “He took right to her.”
Heidi says the student, who is in an Academic Skills Class, was nervous at first, but was also eager to be part of the musical. He was given a spot on the stage crew, responsible for moving scenery and props. Through Kara’s gentle guidance, the student’s confidence slowly started to build.
“For the average sixth grade student, play rehearsals and the show itself can be challenging,” said Principal Annette Trapini. “Students do a lot of waiting and responding to cues; it can be easy for students to lose focus. Kara helped this student for whom this presented a great challenge.”
“It was very sweet to see how she interacted with him,” added Heidi.
Kara’s efforts were noticed by Blue Creek teacher and the musical’s technical director, Brook Greco, who nominated Kara for the North Colonie Kids Care program.
“Kara is a funny, kind student with a huge heart,” said Greco. “She always looks to where she can help others, especially kids with special needs. She is truly a role model.”
During practice breaks, Kara would take the student for walks, talk with him about his day, and encourage him to do his best. The two students became a source of inspiration for each other; Kara dreams of becoming a special education teacher after college. She says she loves working with special education students and helping to build their confidence.
Even though the musical’s practices have come to an end, Kara’s friendship with the student continues. She still visits his Blue Creek classroom once or twice a week after her day is done at Shaker Junior High, and the student, in turn, loves showing her his classroom and weekly work.
“A genuine friendship was forged,” said Trapini.