Jackie Baird runs with Nigel Flagge, a 7th grader at Ames Middle School, every day during the cross country season. She is an Educational Associate in her 3rd year in the District, and has worked with Nigel for the past two years during literacy class. Nigel’s father, Paul Flagge, describes his son as “gentle, loving, and sometimes very playful,” but also admits he is a little biased. “He fights very hard to learn and understand despite having a disability that affects his learning and understanding.”
Knowing how much Nigel loves to run, his teachers approached Carmen Flagge, his mother, with the idea of joining the cross country team. Jackie volunteered to be the person who runs with Nigel. “I am actually not an active runner. I tend to dislike running for the purpose of running,” said Jackie. “However, running with Nigel gives me a purpose.”
Jackie runs with Nigel every day at practice, and even during the meets. She keeps him on the course and encourages him to “keep running.” This phrase is one that he has started to repeat to himself on the course and at home while running on the treadmill. “Carmen and I are definitely grateful for her willingness to run with a herd of middle school boys almost every day so that Nigel is able to participate in something that he can take pride in,” said Paul.
“When parents have a child with special needs, there are a lot of fears and emotions that you experience and have to constantly process. Carmen and I feel very fortunate to have wonderful people in his life who have protected and cared for him and worked to help him face his challenges.”