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Aurora -- Nine special education students at Aurora High School took part in a memorable overnight trip to Punderson State Park just before the school year ended.
It was a first-time journey for interventionist MaryBeth Manfroni's class.
"We had a really great group of students, and I thought they would enjoy something like this," Manfroni said. "I thought they could work on a lot of the life skills they'd been taught in school and carry them over to another environment.
"I was thrilled with the way it turned out," she added. "One of the classroom aides said it was one of the best educational experiences they've had with special education students."
All the money for the trip, which took place May 22-23, was raised by the students at the Greenmen Cafe, which is open every Friday morning during the school year and is for students, their parents and school personnel. The youngsters shop for food, cook it, sell it and count the money raised.
"It's such a positive thing," Manfroni said. "There are a lot of skills we learn through that."
Physical education teacher Mike DeMay, who retired at the end of the school year, went on the trip. He knew the students from their earlier years of schooling.
"Going on that trip was one of the most meaningful things I did in my life," DeMay said. "They're great kids. It was so nice to see those kids functioning so well. We had a blast."
The students, who rode in a bus to the state park in Newbury, stayed in three cabins. Beforehand, they shopped for food at a grocery store.
ONE CABIN was responsible for lunch when they arrived. The group ate dinner at Punderson Manor that evening.
The second cabin was responsible for breakfast the next morning, and the third cabin was responsible for ordering pizza for lunch and determining the cost.
On the first day, students swam in an indoor pool and played cornhole. They set up their bunk area and were responsible for their own belongings. Later, they made s'mores and sat by a campfire.
Burton Mayor Nicholas Fischbach gave the group a tour of the manor, talked about the Western Reserve area and told the students "mild ghost stories" about the manor, which, according to legend, is supposed to be haunted, Manfroni said.
The next morning, eight typical students who are members of the Aurora Buddies Club showed up. The club participates in monthly activities such as bowling and kickball with special education youngsters throughout the school year.
The special education students swam again, then broke up into groups with the ABC pals and went geocaching, which is a form of a scavenger hunt. They searched for boxes that were hidden inside the manor that told about the history of the Western Reserve area.
Afterward, each special education student received an album with about 40 photos.
Classroom aide Ann Rodriquez made a video of the experience. She was accompanied on the trip by classroom aides Micky Colangelo and Aggie Eisler. English interventionist Megan Halko visited on the first night, as did student teacher Brendan Gallagher, a former AHS student.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC