Barnhart Difference Makers in Action: Students Spread Holiday Cheer

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For over twenty years, Barnhart School, located in Arcadia, has had the privilege of partnering up with Byron E Thompson for a festive holiday get together. This event lifts both schools’ spirits in the season of joy. Byron E Thompson serves developmentally and orthopedically challenged kids from Kindergarten through 8th grade in El Monte. Every year, both schools look forward to this exciting and immersive experience.

The origins of this tradition came from a connection of two Barnhart parents who worked as teachers at Thompson. Every year, Barnhart middle school students are assigned a student with a wishlist of a gift they would like to receive for Christmas. Our middle school classmates take it upon ourselves to purchase the gift, wrap it, and create a beautiful card to prepare for the visit. Then, before Christmas break, Barnhart students visit Thompson at their campus to meet up with their assigned student and present their gift. Barnhart students get the privilege of seeing the excitement of the Thompson students while they open their gifts, and then they play with them in their assigned rooms. After taking time to play with the gifts, multiple activities take place to engage all of the students.

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Activities have evolved over the years. Mrs. Holman, a Barnhart teacher, reflected that activities change, “depending on the level of ability… some of the original activities included, reading stories, sharing of holiday treats and more.” Despite the Thompson kids’ impairments, they are still fairly active for the most part. Barnhart sixth grader, Liza Stiefel, said, “Although we couldn’t talk to him [Terrance], and he was one of the more quiet students of the class, he seemed pretty happy, into it, and an active kid.” All of our classmates agree that both the Barnhart and Thompson students enjoy the visit immensely.

The current Barnhart middle schoolers have been going for a variety of years. Eighth graders for three years, and sixth graders experiencing this event for the first time. Sixth grader Noah Leiva was happy to share his thoughts stating, “His name was Elisha, and he loved Asap the rapper. He was completely blind, so he did all his work in braille. Elisha would use his stick [white cane] using a 180 motion to tell direction, and using left and right.” This eye-opening event shows Barnhart students gain a new perspective in a different learning environment. As Barnhart eighth grader Aaron Powel stated, “It opened my eyes to new things.” This experience has also been moving for lots of Barnhart students. Barnhart eight grader, Georgia Judson, said “It was a super humbling experience, and I was really happy to be there and have the opportunity to hang out with the kids at Byron E. Thompson.” Leiva said, “[I] Kind of felt sad that he didn’t have both of his hands, but then happy that he still loved life, and enjoyed [it].”

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Overall, it is a very eye-opening meet-up that both communities anticipate with gratitude in the holiday season. This eventful tradition has touched generation after generation of students and faculty alike from both schools. Barnhart appreciates the constant time and effort that Thompson puts into hosting us with open arms. We continue to be amazed time and time again at the kind and enthusiastic people we meet at Thompson, inspiring us to be better and kinder citizens in the future, living up to our school’s mission of being “Difference Makers.”

Audrey De Groot and Joshua Tybekhan are 8th graders at the Barnhart School in Arcadia, California. Barnhart is a K-8 independent school that focuses on academics, balance, and community. The school’s mission is to create Difference Makers and by contributing to Pasadena Now our students strive to provide insightful content for their greater community. Please feel free to schedule an admissions tour by calling the school at (626) 446-5588.

Barnhart School, 240 West Colorado Blvd., Arcadia, (626) 446-5588 or visit









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