By Jeffery Hunt
Joseph Wilson smiled as he rolled up his sleeve to show light claw marks he received while serving in a special needs seminary class.
Claw marks are not a common occurrence for a Seminary Angel. Even still, Wilson said receiving these scratch marks was not a painful experience, but a loving one.
The marks will heal in a couple of days, but the rewarding growth Wilson said he experiences while serving special needs students will last him a lifetime.
“He clawed me because his head hurt, and he needed something to hold on to,” he said. “He didn”t mean it.”
Wilson is a sophomore and is president of the Seminary Angels Club at BYU. The club helps special needs seminary and institute students at Oakridge Seminary.
Wilson works daily with a particular student who sometimes gets headaches so severe that he hits his head on the floor.
“He trusts me,” Wilson said. “He won”t respond to anyone else. He lets me hold him and rub his head until the pain goes away.”
Not all students have disabilities like this one. Disabilities vary, but the spirit inside them is the same, he said.
Wilson volunteers as a Seminary Angel two hours a day, four days a week. He said it is the students and the spirit that keeps him coming back.
“As you work with the students, your patience grows and your capacity to love expands,” he said. “It”s the love the students show even though they can”t show it as they would like. It gives you a spiritual boost.”
The club is looking for more members. They would like to have a seminary angel for every special needs student.
Melinda Higgins, a senior at BYU, started as a volunteer more than a year ago. In September, she was offered a part-time position and began teaching seminary classes.
Higgins said there is a place for everyone at the special needs seminary.
“Every person who comes here is bountifully blessed,” she said. “Here, our students do not need a professional, trained to deal with disabilities, but a friend willing to help them discover their abilities.”
Randy Payne, from Spanish Fork serves at the seminary as a service missionary.
“This school is special,” Payne said. “We do good things here.”
Payne said he helps classes by reading from the scriptures, sharing his testimony and singing hymns.
When asked if the seminary angels club was the best at BYU, he grinned and said, “Yea, it”s fun.”