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Tuckahoe Parent Volunteers 'Build Bridges' At Cottle Elementary

Tuckahoe students were introduced to Tuna, a canine assistance dog as part of the "building bridges" program.
Tuckahoe students were introduced to Tuna, a canine assistance dog as part of the "building bridges" program. Photo Credit: Contributed
Students in each grade level at the William E. Cottle Elementary School in Tuckahoe will given an age appropriate activity to help educate them about those with disabilities.
Students in each grade level at the William E. Cottle Elementary School in Tuckahoe will given an age appropriate activity to help educate them about those with disabilities. Photo Credit: Contributed

TUCKAHOE, N.Y. - For the second straight year, some of Tuckahoe’s youngest elementary school students were introduced to a special curriculum featuring activities and guest parent volunteers to “build bridges” toward disability education.

The Tuckahoe PTA / SEPTA announced the launch of the now annual Building Bridges program earlier this month, where dedicated groups of William E. Cottle Elementary School parents visited every classroom in the building to provide a better understanding of what disabled individuals go through on a daily basis.

This week, each grade level was assigned age-appropriate activities to help them understand disabilities such as blindness, hearing and speech impediments, Down Syndrome, autism and physical disabilities. The program will also included a fifth-grade learning disabilities assembly featuring a panel of students from the Tuckahoe High School that included Mikaela Iommazzo, Jonathan Richter, Ava Toppi, Alejandro Urbina and Justin Walker.

The program includes guest speakers, American Sign Language lessons, a meet-and-greet with a Paralympian and a visit from Tuna, a canine assistance dog.

In total, there are nearly a dozen volunteers, led by co-chairpersons Maria Cocucci and Tara Zeegers, who shared their expertise and educated the students about the daily struggle individuals enduring disabilities go through.

“Tuckahoe’s children are amazing and this is a place where every child is treated with respect, caring, empathy and compassion, without regard to ability,” Zegers said when announcing the program. “There is quite simply no better place to do this and we are very excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this great initiative.”

Cocucci noted that the Building Bridges program is simply continuing the tradition of Tuckahoe students respecting their peers under any circumstance.

“The children in Tuckahoe are unique and have consistently embraced their peers with different abilities, without judgment,” she added. “This program is another way to reinforce the idea that all people have the same social needs and feelings. They help children realize that these differences are not a barrier to friendship.”

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