Club raises awareness for autism

Camille Kawawa-Beaudan

The Bridge Club strives to raise awareness about autism in our community by encouraging students to join in activities with autistic students from various high schools.

Autistic students from Redwood, Oak Hill, and the Marin County Office of Education all come together on Wednesdays at lunch to participate in various activities with friends they have made in the club.

One of the goals of the Bridge Club is to expand the autistic students’ social skills.

“This club is about building relationships for all the kids,” said Jenny Calzaretta, the president of the Bridge Club. “Some of the kids in there have built relationships that will change their life.”

The Bridge Club was started in January of last year after Oak Hill, a private high school in Marin City for autistic students, read an article about the Friendship Club at  Redwood and came to observe it.

Afterwards, Oak Hill contacted Katie Peter, a special education teacher at Redwood, to create a club where autistic students from Redwood, Oak Hill, and Marin County of Education High Schools could interact with general education students from Redwood and Tamiscal.

Calzaretta, who has been with the club since its inception, said that meeting other autistic students from different schools helps them realize that they aren’t alone.

“They get to meet kids with the same challenges as they have,” she said.

The students, who meet in Room 116, talk, sing, play games and do art projects together.

“It’s amazing to be in a group and singing and participating,” Peter said. “You can feel a group through just singing. It gives them a sense of belonging.”

Wednesday lunches have become the highlight of the students’ week, according to Peters.

“All the kids talk about is Bridge Club,” Peter said. “It’s the one period, the one time where they can talk with real friends. We’re all working together, we’re all equal.”