An awesome friendship between 10-year-olds at Pittsburgh’s Beechwood Elementary |

An awesome friendship between 10-year-olds at Pittsburgh’s Beechwood Elementary

Bob Bauder
Holly Sousa
Lawrence Lynch (L) and Gavin Zett.

Friendship came naturally for Lawrence Lynch and Gavin Zett.

Gavin has Down syndrome and can’t communicate very well with other kids, particularly those outside of his life skills support classroom at Beechwood Elementary in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood.

Lawrence is in a general education classroom at the school.

Life skills and general education kids don’t typically spend much time together, but Lawrence and Gavin, both 10, met one day this school year and forged a bond.

“I just started talking to him and ever since then we just became friends,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said he helps out Gavin. The two play together in the park. Lawrence includes him in celebrations. Lawrence said Gavin is fun to play with and funny.

Holly Sousa, Gavin’s teacher, thought Lawrence’s dedication to Gavin was so unusual that she nominated him for a Champion Award given each year by Local Task Force No. 2 for Pittsburgh Public Schools. The task force is made up of community members, human service agencies and special education administrators. It advocates for families with disabled children.

Lawrence will receive a certificate and be recognized by the school board and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet on Wednesday during a school board meeting.

Sousa described Lawrence as a natural caregiver and leader. She said Gavin, who is sometimes stubborn when told to do something at school, listens to Lawrence. The two sit together at lunch, and Lawrence accompanies Gavin on field trips.

“No adult facilitated this,” Sousa said. “It was just something that came around naturally. He doesn’t act like he’s doing anything special for anybody. He’s just doing it. He gets a kick out of Gavin. Gavin is funny, so (Lawrence) laughs with him. It just seems to be something that he enjoys.”

The friendship came as a surprise to Gavin’s mother, Cristyn, and Lawrence’s aunt, Selicia Kelly, with whom he lives. Cristyn Zett, a Pittsburgh police commander, said she was elated when she learned from teachers that her son had become friends with a student from another class.

“It pulls at your heartstrings to know that someone sees the beauty of your kid in the way that you do and can get past the communication issues and the label of the disabilities,” she said. “I was humbled and grateful and really happy for it. This is the first time that a teacher has told me that Gavin has really connected with one of the typical kids.”

Kelly said she was equally surprised.

“I didn’t actually know that he was helping a little boy until I went to open house and he told me that was his best friend,” she said. “He says he wants to be a teacher and teach special needs. I hope that’s where he continues.”

Zett said she knew there was a true connection when she showed Gavin a photograph of the two kids together and Gavin’s face lit up.

“He does consider Lawrence as his friend,” she said. “This is an awesome thing. I can’t wait to meet him.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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