Message from BarbBarb
By Barbara Palilis
CoF Founder and Executive Director

Welcome to 2016! The Circle of Friends "family" continues to grow and strengthen our message of Inclusion nationwide. Because of you, students, families, school campuses, and communities are erasing the line between the disabled and non-disabled ... and lives are changing. With our world becoming smaller in so many ways, the inclusion of people with special needs is recognized as a global issue. We therefore have a responsibility for the next generation of leaders and workers to be sensitized to differences, guiding the development of skills for interaction with others who need to communicate in different ways. From elementary to middle to high school, collectively we are working to bring change! 

There is a new phrase that I heard recently from Paul Vandeventer, President and CEO of Community Partners, which rings true for us, "Culture Carrier." Circle of Friends is not just a "program" or an "organization" or a "trainer of students." We are Culture Carriers that make a significant positive impact on humanity. We strengthen life and communication skills for all participants; we spread the word on inclusion by demonstration or even by simply wearing our CoF T-shirts. When community members ask about our logo, we have the opportunity to share our vision. We motivate students and adults through our belief in and passion for the mission of Circle of Friends. Whether we are located in California, New Jersey, Washington, or Arkansas, we are true "Culture Carriers" who inspire others with "heart." Together, we are making our world a better place!
Yours in Friendship,



February may be famous for Valentine's Day, but did you know it is also officially International Friendship Month? Having an opportunity to celebrate the magic of friendship is what makes it one of our favorite months of the year.

This year, we have been sharing art sent to us by students expressing their own experiences of what friendship means to them. Our thanks to CoF Advisor Christine O'Brien for sending us the vibrant work of Mountain View Elementary Circle of Friends of Simi Valley Unified School District.. You can see images by these students celebrating the art of friendship by visiting our Facebook album at this link. We are still posting art through the month, so if your students are drawing or creating art that celebrates friendship, it's not too late to grab a phone, snap a photo and send it on.
By Jen Durnay, Sr. Speech Pathologist 
San Diego Unified School District

Gratitude can yield the nicest results. Last year at Challenger Middle School in San Diego Unified School District, the principal started a gratitude journal. She wrote about a staff member, and in turn that staff member wrote about another and on and on until this lovely tribute was written to CoF Advisor Pam Bowdern and Circle of Friends:

"Congratulations to Friends. What would we do without them? Most of us can think of a few good friends. You know the ones...They don't care if you call in the middle of the night. They don't care what mistakes you've made.  They are there when you are hurting and will lend an ear. They have your back. They brighten your day... and you, theirs. They laugh at your silly jokes, and they just get you! They are your partners in crime.'

"As teachers, we wish all of our students had friends like this, but we know the reality is that some do not. You can see it on their faces, in their demeanor. They are struggling. As teachers, we try and brighten these students' day with a smile, or a hello,or a comforting word. That's part of what we do. There is one among us who excels at this...and that person is Pam Bowden.' 

"Pam is an exceptional individual. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty as an educator, and reached out to struggling students with her creation of "Circle of Friends. When I first heard about Circle of Friends, I thought, "Wow! What a wonderful idea!" Today I think it is a fantastic idea. I have watched some of my students participate in Circle of Friends.  They have grown in self-confidence and have an improved sense of well- being. That's because of you, Pam.'

"I have watched students who, perhaps, didn't need friends, join because they knew it was a worthy endeavor, and they knew it would help them grow. They are role models of the future. The students in Circle of friends don't go out and win competitions. They don't bring home trophies, but what they do bring home will last a lifetime.  Pam, you have earned your wings in heaven, and have earned the respect of all who know you for the incredible work that you do. Thank you."
By John H, Student
Correia Middle School, San Diego Unified School District

My Name Is John H I Have Been A Part Of Circle Of Friends Since I Was In 7th Grade At correia Middle School I Like Circle of friends Because I Want To Make new friends we Play games my Favorite game is basketball I like when my friends and I Talk While We Eat Lunch I Want To Eat With my new friends everyday I have met lots of people at Point Loma High School I Am Happy to Be Part Of Circle of friends
 By Casandra Guerrero, CoF Advisor
 San Benito High School, San Benito County Office of Education 

San Benito High School Circle of Friends started giving out "Friends of the Month" awards.  The awards are voted on by the officer board and awarded to an extra special group each month. Recipients get a certificate and bracelet that says "Circle of Friends~Friend of the Month." An announcement also goes out in the school bulletin. 

Congratulations to January 2016 recipients Brian, Oliver, Allison, and Amanda!

By Cindy Hawthorne, CoF Advisor
Hillside Middle School, Simi Valley Unified School District 

At this time of year, many students "forget" to come to CoF lunches. We passed out raffle tickets to everyone who came and then raffled off prizes at the end of  the month. We even raffled off the T-shirts as we didn't have enough for everyone. We made sure all of our students with special needs and our officers  got one first, and then we raffled off the rest. Next, I'm going to pass out extra tickets to those who come wearing their T-shirts. Always something creative to do in CoF!
Our newest district, Pocahontas School District in Arkansas, sent CoF Advisors to Los Angeles for a workshop to stretch and strengthen their programs.  At this time, they were able to visit current programs, including chapters at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School (Newhall School District) and Golden Valley High School (William S. Hart Union High School District). Interaction between advisors provided the opportunity for everyone to share challenges as well as success stories. Observing student interaction at both sites demonstrated how genuine friendships easily develop between students both with and without special needs. It was a special time having the CoF office staff meet them as well.
Circle of Friends thanks Hasbro Children's Fund for its generous support and belief in our mission. It is with their assistance that we are able to continue and expand our social inclusion on school campuses throughout Los Angeles as we develop a new Trainer-of-Trainers program for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Save the Date!

Join us at our 2016 Friendship Gala as we "Reach for the Stars" on Sat. April 30 at 6:00pm at the Le Meridien Delfina Hotel in Santa Monica.  We are raising funds to provide inclusion and prevent bullying for students with and without disabilities on school campuses nationwide.

To purchase tickets and tribute ads, visit our website at
For more information about event and table sponsorship opportunities, 
email us at [email protected]  or call us at (310) 312-6600.

Save the Date Card
We hope you've enjoyed our First Newsletter of the Year

Want to be featured in our next newsletter?  Email [email protected] with your stories.  We look forward to hearing from you.
Circle of Friends ~ The Path to Inclusion
A Project of Community Partners, 501(c)(3), Tax ID # 95-4302067
11965 Venice Blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA  90066
Voice: (310) 312-6600,
Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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