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‘Special’ students take the spotlight

WINDSOR — For those who normally spend their time unnoticed, a recent gathering here at Bertie High School allowed Special Needs students to proudly step into the spotlight. Eight students performed a praise dance in front of a packed room of more than 60 people, including senior citizens, family and friends gathered in the school’s cafeteria of Bertie High School. The performance was all apart of the school’s Exceptional Children’s Department’s 3rd Annual Christmas Extravaganza. It was a sight Special Needs Instructor Patricia T. Askew described as uplifting. “It was a very proud moment for me. To see these kids grow so much over the years, it’s really a blessing. It’s amazing,” she said. People who are diagnosed with special needs require assistance for medical, mental or psychological disabilities. The students hosted a holiday feast for nearly 30 senior citizens who take daily classes at the Council of Aging Center in Windsor. Ten of the 12 special needs students attended. “I’m excited,” said 18-year-old Marcus Johnson, the master of ceremony for the Christmas Extravaganza. “It’s my first time working with the elderly.” Johnson, originally from Maryland, now resides in Lewiston. Johnson said he is hoping to complete his classes as a special needs student in 2009. Students at Bertie High School can remain in the special needs program until they are 22-years-old. “I enjoyed every bit of it,” said 74-year-old Hannah Jefferson of Windsor who attended the students’ event last year. “I came just to see the kids do their program.” “I enjoyed everything,” said 82-year-old Catherine Smallwood. “I enjoyed the children. I enjoyed the food. Everything was just so nice.” Askew and her three teaching assistants, Diane Hassell, Sharon Cooper and Linda Daniels, have worked with the students for years. “Some of the kids could not talk until they were five years old and to see them complete the prayer dance together brings me so much joy. They are truly blessed and I am so happy for them,” said Askew. Askew has taught special needs students for three decades. She said children with special needs hit close to home with her because she grew up with a first cousin who has special needs. “It was a very touching sight to see,” expressed Bertie County School Board Chairman Ricky Freeman. Freeman spoke highly of the students during the program and read an inspirational poem about senior citizens. The food was prepared by the family and friends of the students and staff at Bertie High School. The student community service group, Future Community Careers Leaders Of America, helped serve the food. “I felt very good watching the special needs children. It makes me happy that the instructors really took the time to teach the kids,” explained 83-year-old Ciara Cooper. “I am so glad they learned.”