Inspired by her brother to help special education students

Last year Emma Spear of Jamesport assembled 300 hygiene packets, including combs, toothbrushes, soap, a towel and more, that she eventually distributed to students in special education programs at Riverhead and Huntington high schools.

The labor-intensive job, which involved working with her mom to sew multiple pockets onto each of the towels to create holders for each individual item, was designed to help those students acquire good hygiene habits, said Ms. Spear, 19.

“It’s so they can learn proper hygiene skills, such as using deodorant or brushing their teeth,” she said. “They would learn this in school and then hopefully be able to take these skills home with them once they left the high school.”

Ms. Spear said she was inspired to create the hygiene packets, part of her Girl Scouts Gold Award project, by her older brother, John, a former student in the special education program at Riverhead High School.

Throughout the years, she said, special ed teachers have asked students to bring these items to class so they can learn to use them properly.

Ms. Spear received donations for her packets from parents and community members in the form of individual items and gift cards, as well as donations from Walmart and Target.

She also made different kits for girls and boys, she said, adding that the process of gathering all the materials took nearly four months.

Months after completing her Gold Award project, which culminated with distribution of the packets and a short presentation by Ms. Spear on how to use them, she said she continued to receive numerous thank-you letters from students and parents.

“They said they liked using it, they enjoyed the items and they were just very thankful that they were given these,” she said.

A member of Troop 2309, led by Jeanine Zeltmann, Ms. Spear was recognized by the Girl Scouts at a celebratory dinner this summer for completing the Gold Award, the highest level a Girl Scout can achieve. There, she also received a proclamation for her work from New York Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo.

“Although it was a very long and hard process, I know at the end of the day after all this hard work this will be benefiting children that are like my brother,” Ms. Spear said. “Just knowing they will have something that will help them and is going to a good cause.”

Ms. Spear currently works at the Westhampton Beach Learning Center, part of Eastern Suffolk BOCES, and is a student at Suffolk County Community College.

The Riverhead High School graduate is in her second year of college, working toward her goal of becoming a special education teacher — something she’s wanted since elementary school.

“My brother is my biggest influence,” Ms. Spear said. “I’ve wanted to be a special education teacher since I was in third or fourth grade. I love making a bond with them and knowing I’m making a difference in their lives.”

Photo caption: Emma Spear looks through a hygiene kit she made for students in special education classes at Huntington and Riverhead high schools as part of her Girl Scouts Gold Award project. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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