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Pickleball with a Purpose

The courts were buzzing with movement and laughter, while paddles were swinging and pickleballs were flying. These were no ordinary pickleball contests; these were extra special games played with extra special paddles made by students at Victor J. Andrew High School. 

The paddles were handmade by Woodworking 2 & 3 students and students in the Ultima Program- classes for students with specialized learning needs - who partnered together on the Pickleball Paddle Project.

The woodworking project does far more than create paddles; this project builds connections between students and allows students to teach and learn from one another.

Cassidy said, “We’re building relationship skills. We pride ourselves on being a family at VJA, and I want kids in my woodshop learning how to use their hands and their skills.”

Woodworking 2 and 3 students were paired with students from the Ultima class. Each duo stenciled a pattern, cut wood into a paddle shape, sanded smooth, cut handles to size, and painted. The paddles will be auctioned off later this month, with the proceeds serving as seed money for future projects. 

Andrew junior Garrett Delaleurs said, “I partnered with the same partner as last year and we’re good buddies now, It’s better for both of us, and we can both expand on our skills. It’s fun and takes patience. It gives you a new way to teach. I hope they learn new skills and make friends.”

The brainstorm of Woodworking teacher Jeff Cassidy, who is always looking for ways to partner groups of students around woods, said, “A lot of Ultima students don’t get a chance to come into the woodshop, and I want everyone to have access to it, as well as have my kids be good mentors. Seeing them pair up makes me so happy and proud of these kids.” 

Delaleurs added, “We wanted more people in the woodshop to understand the machines more, and learn how to make things because they’re valuable skills that everyone can use every day in and outside of school.”

Ultima Program teacher Elizabeth Lenahan agreed, saying, “We are grateful our students are provided with these opportunities, not only to be exposed to curriculum content they might not get to otherwise experience but also the opportunity to develop relationships with peers they might not get to come in contact with.”

Ultima class fosters independence and provides students with opportunities to practice real-life skills and build social and emotional skills. Together the students are learning cooperation, teamwork, creativity, and communication.