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Hannah Tucker, 13, of Fenton reads to My Place resident Peggy Napier.

About 30 students from Ridgewood Middle School recently made friends with some residents from My Place Residential, a Festus residential facility for adults with special needs.

The students, who are in Kourtney Casey’s Spanish classes at Ridgewood, read bilingual books about zoo animals they had made to the My Place residents.

“The books were about where animals live, what they look like and what they do, and I wanted to give them (the students) an audience to read to,” Casey said. “My in-laws own My Place Residential and they’re always looking for things for residents who don’t work to do during the day, so we had them come here.”

Students were partnered with one of the 13 residents to read their books aloud.

The Ridgewood students also gave the residents a tour of the school, stopping by various classrooms to introduce the residents to their favorite teachers, Casey said.

The residents also visited the school office and the nurse’s offices.

“They went to the choir room and the choir sang to them,” Casey said.

Residents were treated to a snack.

In addition, students accompanied the residents outside to blow bubbles and play bocce ball, Casey said.

She said both the residents and students enjoyed the day.

“It was fantastic,” Casey said. “It was by far the most rewarding day of my career. One of my students looked at me and said, ‘Mrs. Casey, I’m so happy.’ I’m tearing up thinking about it.

“I feel like that the special-needs population can be intimidating to those not familiar with them, so I wanted to give my students a peek into that world, and I honestly believe lives were changed that day. The residents had a good time, and the students were outstanding.”

Casey also teaches Spanish classes at Fox Middle and Fox High schools.

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