Students helping students

Spotlight on Jones students involved with the ACES program


The ACES (Acceptance, Caring, Empowerment) program at Jones gives diverse learners a chance to interact, learn, and grow with and from their peers.  

“We walk around, play basketball and sometimes do stuff with hula hoops and dodgeballs,” said Sydney Knupp ‘24, who is in her first year of ACES gym. “But the parachute, that’s the best part.”

ACES classes involve lots of teamwork activities, with the goal of strengthening communication and adaptability through peer support.

“For ACES Art we had to do a presentation based around pets,” says Sydney Haworth ‘23, who participates in ACES art and dance. “We got a lot of students to interact, and even the ones who didn’t participate were really excited, which was really fun to see.” 

In the program, students with special needs play a role as buddies and partner up with the student leaders enrolled in the class. 

“I think ACES Dance has been my favorite class I’ve taken,” said Annie Heald ‘23, who is also in ACES art and dance. “There was one student in particular last year, his name was Dave, and he was really into doing the chicken dance. So we would do the chicken dance all the time.”

The goal of these classes is to welcome diversity, gain a deeper understanding of diverse learners, and build a stronger school community. 

“It’s a lot of patience,” said Haworth. “It helps a lot with working on patience and learning how to work with others in a way that some people might not be familiar with. You have to work differently with different students, so it’s fun to learn how to work with them.”

The students who took part in the program agree that it has helped them develop valuable lifelong skills.

 “It requires a lot of empathy,” says Heald. “Something I think is really important is that it really requires you to get rid of all your expectations for how teaching a class or interacting should go.”

Despite the advantages of this class, some students note that things can always be improved. 

“People sometimes can look down on the program. I think getting more people used to it [would help], because I don’t feel like a lot of people even know about it,” said Knupp. 

Giving  the school community an awareness and understanding of the class is an area students observe that Jones struggles with.  

“Getting more students to take the classes [would help] because ACES PE and ACES Art have a decent amount of leaders, but ACES Dance has six people in it,” said Heald. 

Adjustments in the program are constantly made so that everyone involved can have a good experience.  

“Last year, there wasn’t a lot of teacher presence, but I think now they split the classes, which is much more fun for everyone involved, and [it’s] easier to work one on one now,” said Haworth. 

This program is often noted for giving its members multiple learning opportunities, and long lasting memories. 

“Becoming friends with the buddies and getting to know them is the best part, because they’re just such sweet people,” says Knupp. 

After participating in this program, many students remark that they ended up gaining interest in the diverse learning or education field.  

“I was looking at social work for a while, and special education teachers was something I was interested in when I was younger,” says Haworth. 

This class is frequently viewed as an experience other classes do not provide. 

“I’m looking into special education as a career,” says Heald, “If anybody is looking into a career in special education, this is the perfect set of classes to take, with a bunch of different opinions.”

The Jones community overall reflects appreciation, and hopes to see this class continue to thrive in years to come. 

“I’m really glad that we have it,” said Knupp. “I honestly would wish a lot of schools would do it because it builds a good community in general.”