Scholarship finalist promotes Special Friends program

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Confederation College student Alynne Harel displays a poster designed to help her win a scholarship for her Special Friends idea.
(Brent Linton)
Confederation College student Alynne Harel displays a poster designed to help her win a scholarship for her Special Friends idea. (Brent Linton)

A Thunder Bay student is hoping to expand her idea to help people with disabilities through a scholarship contest. She needs the community’s help to do it.
Alynne Harel has applied to Start Something with Alesse, a national contest that helps young women realize their dreams by awarding scholarships to help fund their ventures. She is one of six finalists for a $5,000 scholarship which will be awarded based on online votes.
Her idea, Special Friends, stems from her studies in social work at Confederation College.
“I will be working at Hammarskjold (High School) as part of my internship with Avenue II and I will be a wrestling coach,” Harel said during an interview on Monday.
“I noticed we have a many students in sports who have a wider social circle and I thought I could get them to help those students who don’t have many friends because of disabilities.”
If she receives funding, she said, the program will work by getting students in local schools to fill out surveys indicating their interests. From there, they will match someone with a student with a disability from the same school to begin their friendship with supervised outings. Once a rapport is established, the pair can eventually go to events on their own.
“If a person (with a disability) wants to watch a hockey game, we will find someone who wants to take them to games and eventually they can work on their friendship on their own,” she said.
Harel said she aims to use this program to help abolish bullying, while building lasting relationships that will impact the lives of individuals participating.
She added it is a similar program to one in southern Ontario called Best Buddies, but she will modify it to suit the needs of Thunder Bay high schools.
Harel said she found out about Start Something with Alesse while researching scholarships on a website called Studentawards.com, which helps people find scholarship programs that appeal to them based on their desires.
From now until Feb. 17, anyone can vote for Harel. The winners will be announced March 17. The two projects with the most votes will each receive a $5,000 scholarship.
Alesse is a birth control pill manufactured by Pfizer Canada, Inc.