School of Education coordinates Washington Center Day

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School of Education coordinates Washington Center Day

BJU students serve special needs students from Washington Center in an Olympic-style outreach. Photo: Daniel Petersen

Washington Center Challenge Day, an outreach event dedicated to serving students with special needs, will be held Friday, Oct. 5 in the Davis Field House.

Dr. Brian Carruthers, dean of the School of Education, said the Washington Center Day Challenge is a collaboration between BJU’s Division of Teacher Education and the Washington Center, a Greenville County school for students with severe intellectual disabilities. Every year, Washington Center brings students with special needs to the BJU campus to participate in this Olympics-style event. Carruthers said Washington Day Challenge is modeled after the Special Olympics.

In true Olympic style, the event will begin with a triumphal procession and a ceremonial lighting of the torch. Following the opening ceremony, the children will participate in a series of athletic events.

Beom Koh, a junior sports management major, said he’s loved participating in the event. For Koh, his favorite part is giving the children hope that they can participate in the activities. He said he likes to encourage them to try in spite of their disabilities. Koh said he views Washington Center Challenge Day as an opportunity to show Christian love and compassion.

Each Washington Center student will be partnered with a BJU student, who will stay with the child for the entire day. This one-on-one arrangement will provide the children with personalized care. Carruthers said the collaboration between  the students and their BJU   partners makes the day truly successful. “It really allows the student from Washington Center to have a positive experience here on campus.”

Jared Lane, a junior composition major, said the event provides a great opportunity for BJU students. He has participated in Washington Center Challenge Day twice. “From the perspective of professional development, it gets you exposed and interacting with [many] different kinds of special needs,” Lane said. This will be the fourth year that Briana Whatley, a senior middle school education major, has participated in the Washington Center Day Challenge. For Whatley, helping with the event is always a rewarding experience. 

She especially enjoyed pulling a bicycle for her school student. Whatley said that, even though the student wasn’t actually pedaling, he loved the illusion of riding a bike by himself. “That was the most fun thing,” she said. “Our kid loved it.”

Aside from partnering with Washington Center, the University collaborates with the Greenville County Recreation District, which provides much of the funding and equipment for the event.Carruthers said all students from both the Division of Education and the Division of Exercise and Sport Science get to participate in this event.

Carruthers said he has appreciated the opportunity to work with Washington Center and the Greenville Recreation Department. “Washington Center really appreciates [our collaboration],” Carruthers said. He said it’s something the divisions look forward to each year. “It’s just a great opportunity for our students,” he said.

BJU students will start setting up the night before the event. They will fill the Davis Field House with balloons to give the children from the Washington Center a warm welcome.