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State Honoree

Andrea Wiley

Massachusetts

Andrea Wiley, 13, of Wellesley, Mass., an eighth-grader at Wellesley Middle School, created a “best buddies” program to encourage friendships with special-needs students and to include them in school and community scout activities. Andrea decided to start a middle school inclusion program after seeing how happy it made her older sister, a special-needs student, to be invited to participate in high school activities. After speaking with her school counselor, Andrea recruited a large group of volunteers to help plan and carry out a series of activities. Student volunteers visited the middle school’s special-needs classroom twice each week to cook and eat lunch together, play educational games, and make friends. They also instituted weekly meetings attended by the volunteers, the special-needs students and a guidance counselor. Four special-needs girls ended up joining Andrea’s Girl Scout troop, and three others joined a group that took part in an annual “lip sync” performance at the school. “I felt it was important to do this because I know feeling excluded hurts,” Andrea said. “One small effort makes a big difference.”