McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 21, 2013

McAlester girl, 9, helps MHS students

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — When a little McAlester girl found out headphones could help special education students at a local high school, she used  her own money to help buy them for the whole class.

For months Emali Bellis, 9, saved her birthday money to use during a family vacation to Oregon earlier this year, according to her mother Emma Bellis.

When the family’s vacation plans changed, Emali decided to use the $200 she was going to use for spending money to buy headsets for students in special education program at McAlester High School, her mother said.

The students can use the headphones while using the computer for learning and for testing, according to MHS Instructor Shelly Kirkes.

“The headphones reduce the outside noise to help them stay focused and the headphones also help the students hear the instructions on the computer,” Kirkes said.

Emma Bellis said her daughter is home-schooled and the two volunteer in the community in different ways such as working at a local soup kitchen and delivering meals to senior citizens through the Meals on Wheels Program.

Emma Bellis said while making Meals on Wheels deliveries one day, she and her daughter met Dawn Picotte, the daughter of one of the senior citizens.

Picotte said the idea for the headphones came during a discussion she had with Emali and her mother about her nephew who is a student in Kirkes’ class.

“I just mentioned something about headphones and how much they help my nephew and one other girl in the class who have them,”  Picotte said.

“I said it would be wonderful if the whole class could have headphones.”

Picotte said she was amazed when the Emali offered to use her own money to buy the headphones.

“When she offered to do help these kids, it brought tears to my eyes, it just got to me,” Picotte said.

Picotte said she and Emali each put in $200 and together they were able to purchase 13 pairs of earphones for the class.

Picotte and her husband Ted said they were both in the classroom Nov. 14 when Emali delivered the headphones.

“It was the sweetest thing in the world; it just brought tears to my eyes,” Picotte said.

“The students were able to chose which color they wanted and they were all so happy.”

The teacher of the class said she was also happy about the headphones.

“It’s just so much better for the kids,” Kirkes said.

“They all get to wear the headsets now, its really nice for them.”

Meanwhile Emali said giving the headphones to the students gave her a good feeling.

“I just felt all warm inside,” Emali said.

“And it made me have a really good day.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at