As a Muncie native and a student at Ball State, I serve my community in several ways. The volunteer experience I have enjoyed most is being a “buddy” for the performers in the BSU Prism Project. These performers are children from all over Indiana between the ages of 6-20 who have exceptionalities. The Prism Project combines the best interests of these children with that of University students by having a dual mission: to ultimately provide developmentally, physically, and cognitively appropriate programming for children with exceptionalities, and to help University students gain experience with these individuals. This mission is accomplished by using music, theatre, and dance sessions to aid in the development of social and expressive skills through the performing arts.

I completed my third year with the Prism Project in April of 2019, as a Dance Director for this last year. I first became a volunteer for the Prism Project out of my interest in dance/movement therapy and working with individuals with exceptionalities. It seemed to be the perfect fit — and that it is. Each Saturday of the spring semester, the buddies meet before the performers arrive to learn a new technique, skill, or coping mechanism to use that is specific to their assigned buddy for that season. After preparing for their arrival, the buddies pick up their performers, and each pair gathers together to dance and sing along to a song that generally correlates to the final performance as the opening and closing “number.” One weekend, the group grew to nearly a total of 80 performers and buddies, reflecting that some of these performers have been a part of the Prism Project for 10 years and have grown from 6 to 16 years old, or from 10 to 20. In addition, the large group size means the program is truly making a valuable impact on everyone involved. Personally, I have learned more about my care-taking, performance, and problem solving skills through my time with Prism than I have in any other class or workshop before.

For the performers, this program gives them a social and expressive outlet. Prism provides them with a group of like-minded children (though it is worth noting that each of these children is a unique individual, and I use this term to indicate that they may not usually be around such a large number of children who also have exceptionalities). Secondly, Prism gives them a buddy. Our role in their lives is to be their friend, help them when they’ve had a tough day or week, and most importantly, LISTEN to them. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of any child’s or family’s routine, listening is lost. This can cause frustration, which Prism helps to ease through their dedicated buddy, the friend group they are provided with, and the time and space to use the performing arts as an outlet and a coping mechanism. This weekend, I was more of a mentor and friend than a performance endorser, as I helped my buddy work through developmental challenges that each child faces. Being the confidant for a child in this way, beyond the skills formed from working with Prism, is rewarding in itself, and clearly makes a difference in the performers’ lives.

I will be using this blog, reflecting on what I have learned that week and what this means for my future career as a medical professional and as a human. Thanks for reading!