Columbia Elementary School

May 19, 2023 by Anita Reid

Banner School Award Logo

Buddy Program

Madison City Schools

Principal, Mrs. Miranda Bolden

Superintendent, Dr. Ed Nichols


Housing one of the system’s two programs for students with significant disabilities, Columbia Elementary School decided to implement a more organized, intentional inclusion program for 2021-2022. While the general education students joined their exceptional needs peers in classrooms for social and academic times, the Columbia team felt students would benefit from additional time to develop truly impactful friendships. Brainstorming creative ways to achieve this goal, Columbia’s staff created the Buddy Program. General education students applied to the program through an application process which required an essay detailing why they wanted to be involved in making sure the special needs students felt a part of the school in a very special way. Overwhelmed with the response of interested students, the staff began to meet with the applicants to prepare them for working with special needs students, including those that could not speak or walk. The staff prepared the students for behaviors and reactions they might not have seen before. Following the initial meeting, the school held a Christmas Dance, Spring Fling Egg Hunt, and End of the Year Buddy Dance. These events included lots of laughter, dancing, and friendships, but the most successful event was the Special Forces Track and Field Day. This event was the epitome of inclusion as the general education students assisted the transitional students in racing, throwing, jumping, and more. Columbia finished the year by hosting a Buddy Walk for students with Down’s Syndrome with over 500 in attendance. The 45-50 student volunteers in the Buddy Program helped the entire school rally around Columbia’s self-contained unit, furthering the school’s belief in acceptance, inclusion, and celebration of those with unique abilities.