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Honouring buddy system

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A life-changing friendship between two pupils has led to a new award being handed out at Greytown School.

Scarlett Wilton was the first recipient of the Alex Walsh Buddies Award at the school’s end of year prizegiving, which was created to recognise the support she gave Alex throughout his schooling there.

The pair became friends after Scarlett recognised that as a pupil with Down Syndrome, Alex needed a way to be included in general school activities.

“When Alex came to school I thought we should have a club that all people can come to and Alex can come to,” Scarlett said.

From there, Buddies Club was born, with a group of friends meeting on a weekly basis at Scarlett’s house to take part in a range of activities, including games, sports and dancing.

“Alex loves dancing and he took out a few of the shot put games at the Buddies Olympics,” Scarlett said.

What started off as a support project soon blossomed into an ongoing friendship between the pair which has lasted right until the end of their time as Year 8 pupil leavers.

Alex’s mother, Heather Walsh, said Scarlett’s invention of the Buddies Club had taught pupils to be kind to their peers who need extra help and meant Alex was actively involved in school activities instead of watching from the side-lines.

“Scarlett started as being Alex’s advocate without even drawing a breath,” Heather said.

“She got him into netball and even buddied him on the court.

“It’s just been the most amazing mainstream experience and he’s felt totally included.”

Heather even considered Scarlett to be her own buddy too, as she would often text Heather to let her know what had been going on with Alex during the day.

“Without her I would be lost,” she said.

Alex and Scarlett were both school leaders in 2018, known as Black Hats, but will be going their separate ways next year with Scarlett moving to Ireland this week and Alex going to Wairarapa College.

Heather said it important to honour Scarlett’s contribution to Alex’s successful school life by creating the Alex Walsh Buddies Award.

She hopes it will encourage others at the school to continue with the Buddies system in the future.

“It’s our way of leaving a legacy and keeping the same ethos there in the mainstream,” Heather said.

She said recipients of the award would need to go beyond the normal level of helping, show initiative and stick with the job.

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