EXCHANGE: Program pairs students, developmentally disabled

KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) — A summer job has turned into a new Bishop McNamara High School program, thanks to senior Amanda Graf.

The program is called Mac Pals, where students will be paired with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Students and their pals will be participating in activities geared toward fun, learning and friendship. Activities will be scheduled throughout the year, and encourages things such as sports, art and music.

Graf, a senior from Kankakee, came up with the idea for the program while volunteering with the River Valley Special Recreation Association this past summer.

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“I thought since all area high schools have a program like this, why can’t we?” Graf said. She has the support of the entire school staff and administration. There already are 30 students who are interested in Mac Pals.

“If students want to implement something new in school, they need to put together a proposal, and the administration and myself loved Amanda’s proposal,” Bishop McNamara principal Terry Granger said.

“It’s a great way to not only give back to the community, but to people with special needs, as well.”

For Bishop McNamara students looking to get involved in Mac Pals, they can contact Graf. “You can get in touch with me by email, (, calling, texting (815-922-4868) or even if you see me in the hallways,” she said.

Mac Pals is available to all students, grades 9-12, and sign-up is open-ended.

“Anyone can sign-up to join throughout the year. I wouldn’t want to exclude anyone because they had a prior time commitment,” Graf said.

“We were all really impressed with how Amanda took this idea upon herself and rallied students together, and did everything that needed to be done to get this program together,” said Laura Anderson, director of marketing and communications for Bishop McNamara.

When getting involved in the program, students will fill out a registration form complete with a survey.

The survey is a way of getting information so that students can be matched with their pal, even giving students the opportunity to list one thing their potential pal should know about them. There’s no initial cost for joining the program.

Graf already has a few ideas in mind for Mac Pals.

“I want to hold different activities throughout the year. It’d be great if we…

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