Alya Mehrtash staff writer
Every Wednesday at lunch, room S312 is filled with lots of laughter and love. Members of the By Your Side club, students with and without special needs, come together to talk about their day, play games and to spend quality time together.
Through their club meetings, members of By Your Side aim to “unite students with and without special needs to foster companionship and friendships.” Co-president sophomore Madison Heller finds joy every week in spending time with the students in By Your Side.
“Interacting with the students is the highlight of my day, full stop. The joy throughout the room is tangible,” she said. “There is no better feeling than seeing the positive impact you’ve made on another person.”
Students come together at By Your Side meetings and cherish each other’s company. This is one of the many things about the club that stands out to Heller.
“My favorite part of By Your Side is seeing students, both special ed and ‘mainstream’, genuinely enjoying each other’s company. Through By Your Side, I have witnessed firsthand the true magic of human interaction: people who spend time together naturally bond,” she said.
Co-president junior Britney Shirian feels that the club has brought to life a new, accepting community that all students can enjoy.
“What By Your Side has created is a really great community where all students, of course, interact and hang out and form relationships,” Shirian said. “We all hang out and play games and have conversations and it grows relationships. It shows how all students can make relationships with each other [and] with people that they normally wouldn’t converse with. It creates a support group for all students.”
Heller feels that the emotional takeaways from being a part of By Your Side are extremely fulfilling and make the weekly time commitment worth it.
“Everyone involved in By Your Side is appreciated for being who they are. It’s a unique opportunity to grow as a person and as a member of society,” Heller said. “Those who join By Your Side will take away something much bigger than the one hour commitment each week.”
This environment of acceptance has impacted Shirian’s life outside of the club as well. She had always been afraid that her younger brother, who was diagnosed with ADD and learning disabilities, would have difficulty making friends in school. Her time as a member of By Your Side, however, has proven otherwise.
“When he was first diagnosed I was afraid that he wouldn’t have any friends. As he gets older, I feel like that’s not really the case and that was just supplemented by this club and knowing that no matter who you are, you’re still able to have friendships with people. This club is just an extension of that,” Shirian said.
Through this community of acceptance, By Your Side has also brought about many friendships that most likely would not have been formed without the club.
“The importance of By Your Side to me is the meaningful friendships that I’ve formed over the past two years,” Heller said. “By Your Side has had a profound impact on my perspective of the world and what really matters in life. I’m very grateful to be a part of something so special.”
Members of By Your Side are not only granted the opportunity to improve the quality of someone else’s life, but also the opportunity to better themselves and to contribute to a greater movement of campus-wide acceptance toward one another.
“It feels not only really rewarding, but also really enriching because you feel not just the basic, ‘Oh, you’re helping someone else,’ but then also you know that you’re helping yourself become more of an accepting and more kind person,” Shirian said. “You’re just able to help create an environment where no matter who you are, you’re still able to have friends and you’re still able to have fun with people and laugh.”
The impact of By Your Side goes beyond the doors of room S312. To Shirian, it profoundly affects the culture of acceptance at school, as well.
“[By Your Side] helps supplement the environment of acceptability that we have at Beverly,” she said. “It helps create an environment where no matter who you may be, where you may come from or how you were born, even, you’re still able to create relationships with people and form bonds that not only elevate how you see yourself but also how you interact with people in the future.”