ELMSFORD, N.Y. -- The Alice Grady School lawn is converted to a family playground each Wednesday as Alexander Hamilton High School students mentor elementary school children in "Backyard Sports".
Hosted by the Elmsford Schools Special Education PTA (SEPTA), the volunteer teens from Hamilton teacher Marissa Marx's "Peers As Leaders" group class participate in after-school play with their younger "brothers and sisters" during a six-week program.
"We are learning so much about how young children learn and adapt to new experiences," Hamilton junior Felice Aprile said. "I wanted to do something to help younger kids. Backyard gives us a chance to teach. The kids really enjoy being with us."
"Backyard Sports" provides weekend and after school sports instruction and game play for boys and girls ages 4-16 years old. The programs are designed for kids with limited access to community programs and special needs children in Lower Westchester and Connecticut.
Grady's SEPTA President Melissa Marino said the program is an outlet for children who need assistance in sports activities.
"We've had great support from Backyard Sports flagship program of SUNY Purchase College and the high school students, who get community service credit and have really done a wonderful job with the children," said Marino, who son is a Backyarder. "This environment allows the children to enjoy real play time and learn skills."
Marx said getting her students to volunteer for the program was as easy as asking.
"This kids literally jumped out of their seats to sign up," Marx said. "And when we have discussed the program, they each tell me that they all have been getting so much out of being with the children. These young people will gain so much experience in interacting and teaching."
For Stephen Semidey, mentoring younger children has been eye-opening.
"Each of the kids learns in a different way," Semidey said. "We have to be patient, listen and watch how they progress and how they. Some can understand instructions an others pick things up by just repeating the skills. It's makes us feel good to see them enjoying and learning.
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