Special Spirit At Willenberg Event

by Nina Li

line.orange.700Special Spirit At Willenberg Event
willenberg• Spirits are high this holiday season as students come together for annual event with Willenberg students.

At Peninsula High School, the cheer was overwhelming as the Willenberg students arrived on campus for the annual Special Education event at which Peninsula students perform and join in activities with the Willenberg students.
This year, more than 100 students participated in Willenberg, event, including students from Peninsula and Palos Verdes High Schools’ Skills for Independence classes.
“Willenberg was even more fun and exciting this year, since I was able to be an elf buddy,” said Emily Wang. “It is honestly such an amazing and wholesome event to be a part of. It really gets me in the holiday spirit.
“My buddy Ethan was so awesome, and I just had the best time. This was actually my first year being in Willenberg, and I am so happy I got to experience it because it is also my last year at Pen, Wang said. “It was definitely one for the books and something I will always remember, especially for my senior year.”
When the students arrived, two students from Peninsula, known as elves, were paired with a student from Willenberg and given a brown bag of activities to complete together.
Service Learning Leadership’s Willenberg Committee was in charge of coming up with the activities and making sure that every group had enough of all the materials to complete the activities.
The committee included Anne Lee, Makenna Murphy, Elizabeth Ozawa, Alicia Carbona, Abby Robinson and Amanda Traywick.
Service Learning Leadership also collaborated with Associated Student Body’s Willenberg Committee.
This committee includes Emily Wang, Maddie Chun, Victoria Mansukhani, Megan Hwang, Julia Kahen, Rhys Hershberger and Diego Sheng.
ASB is in charge when Peninsula High travels to Willenberg, and comes up with the dance that the two leadership classes perform when we go there.
In the bags, there was a candy cane bead activity, a bell noise maker, bingo and a green triangle used to make a giant Christmas tree in the end. Also, there was a cookie decorating room where students could go and use icing and sprinkles to decorate sugar cookies.
“This was my first time being an elf for Willenberg and it was one of the best events I have ever participated in,” Lee said. “My partner and I loved our buddy so much and it was so funny getting to know him and doing all the activities with him.”
After all the festive activities were done, everyone went to the lunch area where the cafeteria provided every student from Willenberg with a free lunch. Once finished, the whole school packed into the gym to watch performances put on by Willenberg that showcased singing and dancing.
“My favorite part was arguably the dances,” Wang said.
“Every year, it is something different, and no matter what, the performances are always so entertaining because you can see the passion and excitement radiating from them. The performances are super cute and just an amazing end to the day,” she said.
When their performance was over, all of the elves and their buddies had a dance party and played basketball in the gym. The fun did not stop there, however.
On Wednesday students from ASB, SLL, band, spirit squads visited Willenberg in San Pedro to participate in traveling acts that consisted of different activities that students can do together as well as performances by dance teams and the band.
These activities included making snowflake ornaments, decorating plastic ornaments, making holiday cards, face painting, and many more. Peninsula also passed out gifts to all the students, including various items such as mugs and hot chocolate packs.
“I love working with the staff at Willenberg on the planning of our exchange,” said Heather Myrick, Service Learning Leadership teacher.
“They are so warm and truly love what they do. They work really hard to give the Willenberg students unique and meaningful experiences and opportunities. I really enjoy talking with them and learning from them,” she said.
“I think both of our schools have grown in various ways because all of the teachers are so interested in learning from/with each other.”
Myrick said that one the teachers at Willenberg, who is now the assistant principal, has her own children who are Peninsula alumni, and one is an SLL alumnus, so we have gotten to know each other well over the years and I think it has made our schools even more connected.
The event has been going on for more than 30 years, but each year is different, with new activities and new people contributing to the festivities.   
“It would be hard to do, but it always feels like I want to do more with Willenberg,” Myrick said. “It would be fun to have a spring event or another day where we get together. There is always so much going on, so I will continue to treasure our holiday exchange, but it would be fun to continue working closely together.”

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