Second annual Jaguar Quad held in Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Goelz Field and the surrounding areas featured a flurry of activities Friday, May 18, when sunny skies prevailed for the second annual Jaguar Quad.
The Jaguar Quad is modeled after the Goody Triathlon, in which area students recently participated in Pulaski, by pairing up students with special needs with student mentors.
This year’s Jaguar Quad event involved Parkview Middle School’s Peer Mentor Program, which was founded four years ago, along with Goody Triathletes from Ashwaubenon High School.
The students participated in a one-mile run, biking around the Goelz Field track for 20 minutes and swimming in the Ashwaubenon Community Pool for 15 minutes before lunch with pizza and then playing kickball prior to concluding with a medal ceremony.
Vanessa Talus, a special education teacher at Parkview and one of the event organizers, said the Jaguar Quad involved all the middle school students, while the mentor program this year matched approximately 20 students with special needs with 100 peer mentors.
“Our students have worked really hard together inside of the classroom and outside of the classroom this year,” Talus said. “They help each other out. Academically, they’re supporting their mentees in the classroom, helping them with any homework or just getting back on track. If any of our students are having a difficult time, they give them words of encouragement.”
Talus said the peer mentor program involves training for student mentors on how to work with students with special needs and includes a variety of afterschool social gatherings.
“I had an eighth-grade student (John Marshall) with autism who played basketball for the first time ever on a team, had his first birthday party because of his peer mentors,” she said. “We’re hoping that it trickles up to the high school and that they continue on with the program, because our students are really excited and they want to help out each other. Our Jaguar Quad is kind of our culmination event, coming out and having fun in the sun.”
Talus said she worked with physical education teachers Kerry Janquart and Kim Treml in planning the Jaguar Quad with various staff members, community members and parent volunteers helping out on the day of the event.
To coordinate the middle school students for the running, biking and swimming events, Talus said they were divided by grade in each event with the grades rotating to a different event.
“We kind of looked at what is a triathlon. It’s modeled after the Goody Triathlon that our high school students competed in on Monday (May 14), and then we added in the kickball for an extra kind of event at the end,” Talus said.
Parkview Principal Kris Hucek said the Jaguar Quad “brings so many students together who normally wouldn’t hang out together.”
“They create lifelong friendships by doing activities like this,” Hucek said. “Students are pushed to meet physical goals that normally they wouldn’t even worry about. It’s an excellent day just seeing these kids bond and encourage each other and just become teammates in all these competitions.”
Hucek said the Jaguar Quad, which she hopes will continue annually for many years into the future, is a partnership with the community and represents a portion of the peer mentor program’s significance.
“These kids take care of each other inside of the classrooms, they take care of each other inside the lunchrooms, they watch out for each other on the buses, outside in the playgrounds, and they truly become almost like mini-body guards for our students with special needs,” she said.
Chris Morgan, a Parkview eighth-grader who has been a mentor for three years, said he has gotten to know Marshall well by being paired up with him.
“I think it’s great just being able to see John progress through the three years with schooling and playing basketball this year…,” Morgan said. “It means a lot to not only John, but also to us to be able to help.”
Andrew Pludeman, another Parkview eighth-grader who is a mentor, said the program “changes everyone a lot.”
“People are just becoming so much better people and it’s really making the school a lot better of a place,” Pludeman said. “This program is just so awesome. Everyone is so nice and everyone works together. It’s just awesome seeing the mentees have so much fun.”
Lakshman Mallela, a Parkview eighth-grader who has been a mentor for two years, said the program “teaches great leadership options and helps you become a great person.”
“You help your mentees throughout their whole school life and you just act as their friend,” Mallela said. “Being their friend it means so much to them, because when they went into, like first grade, they probably just felt that they had no friends. But with the peer mentor program, it just makes them feel better and it teaches them how to act.”