'Teaching Together' program places special needs adults in classrooms

'Teaching Together' program places special needs adults in classrooms (ABC7)

WASHINGTON (ABC7) -- There's something special about Tuesdays and Wednesdays at St. Peter School on Capitol Hill. They're the days Teacher's Aide Alex Pellegrino comes.

Principal Jennifer Ketchum says having him at the school makes the environment better for everyone.

"It really allows the students to witness and appreciate the truly diverse talents people bring and it's just been a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved," she said.

Twenty-four-year-old Pellegrino has special needs and got his opportunity through the Teaching Together program. He told ABC7 News, "I help with kids."

It's a job Teaching Together Founder Mary Forr's sister Marita dreamed about. Marita has special needs and wanted to work with children. When younger sister Mary became a teacher, she found a way to give other adults with cognitive challenges the opportunity her sister wanted.

"Alex does a lot of bulletin board work. He sorts papers, makes copies he makes sure kids have their papers back in a timely manner," she explained.

When Alex isn't working his part-time job at the school he has another position at a local supermarket.

For him, the better job is obvious. He gleefully stated, "This one!" When asked, 'Why?' he offered, "Because it's my favorite!"

Pellegrino is a favorite at St. Peter. Eighth grader Maya McGuire told ABC7, "It makes our whole class and pretty much the whole school more accepting of anyone's differences really. I think that we all we all embrace each other. It's a more loving environment."

Thirteen-year-old Azariah Sheth continued, "The most important thing he does is enlighten all of us every single day. Every time he's here, his smile puts a smile on my face."

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