Paraprofessionals extend consistent helping hand


Nick Eddinger/Sagamore Staff

Always here to help! Paraprofessional Danny Costigan assists students in a Community Based Classroom

Nick Eddinger, Staff Writer

They may not be helping you, or you may not even know who they are. But to the students they work with, they bring support, investment, and excitement to each individual’s academic and personal growth.
Paraprofessionals provide invaluable helping hands to students with special needs. They work in several programs that help students with disabilities at the high school. Paraprofessional Jessica Dunn, who works in the Bridge program, stresses the support they give to students.
“It’s all about helping them reach independence and different skills,” Dunn said. “So we have dishes and laundry, and anything you would think. We’re just trying to make them independent and ready for the real world when they turn 22.”
The Bridge program serves students 18-years-old to 22-years-old who have completed high school. Bridge teaches independence in the home, community and workplace.
According to paraprofessional Brittany Hatzieleftheriadis, the Bridge program also helps students to learn and to improve at a more specific set of job skills.
“Some of our students have jobs at Boston University, either in the fitness center or in the dining hall, and we help them with their jobs there,” Hatzieleftheriadis said. “So if it’s serving, now they’re pretty independent, but when they first started, we had to teach them how to do a certain job or a certain task.”
Reaching For Independence Through Structured Education (RISE) is another program where paraprofessionals work. RISE focuses on supporting high school aged students with autism spectrum profiles as well as students with similar needs.
Brittany Lerman is a paraprofessional working in RISE. She has been interested in this type of job for awhile.
“I have a cousin with moderate to severe autism and my sister also has a variety of behaviors, so I always knew that I like working with this population, and in high school I did a lot of volunteering with kids and adults with special needs,” Lerman said. “So I kind of wanted to do it in real life.”
Paraprofessional Lauren Sobolewski works in the RISE program, and Sobolewski said that her main job is to support students through a typical school day.
“Well, basically what we do, at least in RISE, is we support kids in the classrooms, and that can be classrooms in our program or classes out in the rest of the school,” Sobolewski said. “We also support sometimes with before and after school activities, and that support really varies from student to student.”
Lerman said that students in the RISE program have a variety of different needs, all of which affect what the paraprofessionals will be helping with.
“You might have students that are super independent and just need help in social skills and learning what’s socially appropriate, and you might have students who need more mental, physical, or emotional support.” Lerman said. “For others, I’m helping them step by step, breaking everything down in a way that they can understand it to the best of their ability.”
Lerman said that she enjoys seeing her students improve on their classwork.
“We incorporate something called EVA,” Lerman said. “It’s the type of methodology of how we support our students with positive reinforcement of certain behaviors. Just seeing if they’re doing really well, just supporting them and seeing them be really successful, it’s nice to see that over time and how you supporting them is helping them.”
According to Sobolewski, the most enjoyable part of the job is watching her students grow and understand what they previously did not.
“You get to see a kid who comes in, is possibly struggling with something, and then at the end of the book they’re like ‘Wow I get that,’ and they can make connections to real world situations, and it can inspire them to do things,” Sobolewski said. “That’s the most rewarding part of it.”