Gummy Bears spread kindness at Beaumont
Author: Tammy Lane • First Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009
Eighth-grader Jennifer Taylor wants to do the right thing, and the Gummy Bears Club provides a perfect outlet for her and other kindhearted kids at Beaumont Middle School.
One of the group’s main efforts is reaching out to Mary Molsky’s students who have special needs. As peer tutors, the Gummy Bears spend extra time with kids in Molsky’s class, not only in school but also in the community. Sometimes they do homework together; in December they took the students Christmas shopping.
“We went to the mall (to practice) social skills, and they got to pick out clothes for their family,” explained Jennifer, the club president. A baseball game and other field trips are possibilities for this spring.
“It’s just about being a good person,” Jennifer said. “You’re making a difference in their lives.”
She said the Gummy Bears Club has also made a positive impact on its own members. “It’s not about yourself anymore, but about how your actions affect others,” she said, adding, “I have become a much nicer person and more tolerant of people.”
The club started last semester with about a dozen students; now more than 50 are involved. Kids who want to join must first write an essay explaining why; Molsky also gives the Gummy Bears a writing assignment every grading period.
One recent task was for the Gummy Bears to describe how their counterparts in Molsky’s class have affected their lives. So club members wrote letters to the parents of Molsky’s students. For those families to hear how their children are accepted at school meant the world to them, Molsky said.
Eighth-grader Chris Watson was among the first Gummy Bears; he had gym class with some of Molsky’s students and volunteered to help in her classroom. “I’m sweet to everyone,” said Chris, who has been dubbed the club’s “ambassador of kindness.”
The Friday before Valentine’s Day, he and the rest of the Gummy Bears hosted a dance in the school library, where they hung party decorations and served refreshments. Kids mingled excitedly as the electric slide jump-started the party.
“The general education kids are so willing to be a part of the lives of my special-needs students,” Molsky said. “There are lots of kids who need a niche in life – they need to belong.”
The friendships built during planned club activities have led to other opportunities for the students in Molsky’s class. For instance, one of her eighth-graders, Lauren Mischler, had an interest in cheerleading. And after a couple of the Beaumont cheerleaders joined the Gummy Bears, Lauren was persuaded to join them on the sidelines.
Amanda King, a special education teacher and co-coach of the cheerleading squad, said the girls have taught Lauren when to clap and yell “Go, Colts!”
“She’s always upbeat. Lauren’s been a really good treat for us,” King said.
Folks at Beaumont say Molsky, who left the corporate world about 15 years ago, has been a treat for their school as well.
“She sees that no matter who or what you think your ability might be, you are able to do anything,” said Beth Bates, the special education facilitator. “She’s really been a bright light in our building this year.”
Bates noted that Molsky, who is in her first year at Beaumont, has an incredible rapport with everyone. “The types of kids she’s teaching are usually sort of shut out from the rest of the building and students. But her classroom door stays open all day every day. She encourages people to come in and speak to her students and see what’s going on,” Bates said.
A poster in Molsky’s classroom seems to capture the spirit of the Gummy Bears Club and her overall philosophy: “Acceptance is seeing with your heart, not with your eyes.”
“I always look at educating the world, so to speak, in that so many of us as adults even are afraid of the kid who walks with a limp or will walk across the street if they see someone in a wheelchair coming toward them,” Molsky said. “My intent is to help everyone understand that we are all the same.”