Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 12-05-2018

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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PAWTUCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | DECEMBER 5-11, 2018 PAWTUCKET 13 change the culture and have a team that people wanted to be a part of." In 2006, the Raiders won the Division III championship. After that accomplishment, Pereira got another itch, an itch for change, as he wanted to see what the world was like outside Rhode Island. He eventually moved to Michigan and went back to school, attending Eastern Michigan University. In 2013, he was a volunteer assistant coach for EMU, and from there, he bounced around, coaching vol- leyball at a few high schools, before going to Division II Jackson College as an assistant coach in 2014. He learned how to recruit at Jackson and how to build relation- ships. After deciding to move on from Jackson College, Pereira ran into what was then the new EMU head coach, Kimi Olson. Since EMU was his alma mater and he enjoyed living in Michigan, he wanted to get back involved there. In 2017, he became a volunteer assistant coach for the women's pro- gram. The staff includes Olson and assistants Darcy Dorton and Peter Winters, and Pereira received a new title, the Director of Volleyball Operations. "I have many duties," Pereira said. "I'm kind of like the go-fer of the program. I write the newslet- ter for the program, giving people the inside track of what's going on, from practices to behind the scenes stuff. I also help out recruiting as well as the travel plans, and I'm an extra hand to help out the team. Every day I'm learning more and more." EMU is a Division I school that competes in the Mid-American Conference. This season, the Eagles accomplished a couple of firsts. Going 21-14, they were the MAC Tournament champions and earned their first bid into the NCAA Tournament. "Going into (the season), we knew we had the right pieces to compete for a championship," Pereira said. "Expectations were really high. We wanted to show we belong in the MAC. The girls worked extremely hard. And we were honored to rep- resent the MAC in the NCAAs." The Eagles had to play on the road last Friday night in the open- ing round of the NCAA National Tournament, and they lost to third- ranked Illinois, 3-0. Before the game, on the way to Illinois, Pereira said that they were excited to com- pete on the big stage against a Big 10 team. Despite the loss, Pereira does not see himself leaving any time soon. "I'm living my dream right now," he said. "Being from the small state of Rhode Island, learning the game of volleyball, and now to be on a D-I staff is huge. I have the oppor- tunity to help the program take the next step forward. It's similar to my situation at Shea. And I'll always be part of a program that made his- tory." Coming from the city of Pawtucket to a D-I college volley- ball team, he said he realizes that anything is possible. He said he likes to look back at his times at Shea. He is also great friends with Tolman High boys' volleyball coach Neil Nachbar, and he said he is able to keep tabs on what's happen- ing on the state's volleyball scene thanks to Nachbar's online newslet- ter. From preceding page Best Buddies launches at Pawtucket elementary, middle schools PAWTUCKET – Everyone needs a buddy. Luckily for students at Samuel Slater Middle School and Henry J. Winters and Elizabeth Baldwin elementary schools, meeting new friends of all different abilities just got a bit easier, thanks to the newly-established Best Buddies pro- gram at those respective schools. Elizabeth Townsend, program manager of school friendship for Best Buddies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, visited Baldwin Elementary recently, where she spoke to students about what the organization does and how to get involved. More than 40 students have already signed up to partici- pate, school officials said. Best Buddies is a program that connects students with disabilities with their school peers, helps foster "one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership develop- ment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," accord- ing to the organization. Townsend said the program also aims to empower student leaders in their schools and communities. Townsend said the elementary por- tion of Best Buddies started nation- ally in 2015, after the decision was made to offer these programs to younger students, not just those in middle and high school or college, where, "There's been such great progress with students learning about inclusion and friendship." Starting Best Buddies in schools at the elementary level, Townsend said, allows the program to, "help create these friendships organically between students with or without disabilities, and teach about aware- ness and inclusion at that age before the negative stereotypes tend to form." When Townsend spoke with Baldwin students recently, the children made one thing clear: "Friendships mean a lot to them," she said with a smile following the school's Best Buddies assembly. Townsend said working with Pawtucket school staff members to set the program up has "been a plea- sure," and said this work couldn't happen without school support. ELIZABETH TOWNSEND, program manager of school friendship for Best Buddies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, far left, talks with Elizabeth Baldwin Elementary students JINELLY DEJESUS and ALINA DALOMBA at an assem- bly held at the school where a Best Buddies program was introduced.

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