Hillview Dance Buddies Program Creates Belonging for All Students
A sense of belonging is fundamental to our children’s confidence, and perhaps one of the most important things a school can offer in fostering a climate of support and success. Particularly when transitioning to middle school, kids need to feel safe and welcome in their new school so they can thrive socially and academically. What is more fraught with potential angst and dread than the first school dance? At Hillview, a new program called Dance Buddies helps all students feel welcome, building community and inclusiveness on campus, and all signs point to success since it began two years ago.
Dance Buddies pairs students in ASB, the Associated Student Body ( Hillview’s student government) with students in the AIMs (Achieving Independent Minds) program to enjoy the dance together. Students in AIMs are learning how to navigate social settings they have never experienced before. Dance Buddies has been a smash hit with the ASB volunteers and AIMs students alike allowing for all students to feel comfortable and included. In each pair of Buddies, the AIMs student takes the lead, roaming from the high energy dance floor to quieter areas like concessions and the game room to participate in activities they feel most comfortable with.
Every step of the dance experience is a life skill and language opportunity for AIMs students. From buying the ticket, which includes communicating with parents about the dance dates and cost, to learning “ticket purchase” language to meeting their Buddy a couple days before the dance, the process allows students to put real life skills into action. Seeing a familiar face - their Dance Buddy - when they arrive at the dance on Friday night is key to creating the connection and belonging the program strives to foster.
Dance Buddies is offering connection to both groups of students who participate. Peer buddies are always valued over adults and often by the end of a dance, the ASB buddies see that they have more similarities than differences to AIMs students. Dance Buddies is showing that middle schoolers are looking for ways to show they are responsible, empathetic, patient people. The relationships formed often lead to ASB students saying hello in the halls to AIMs students or dancing with them in the quad on a Friday at lunch when music is blasting. The sense of belonging and inclusiveness are definitely strong at Hillview...everyone is just Hillview Humans at the end of the day.