Peer Mentor Program
What is the Peer Mentor Program?
A program which pairs K-12 students within a school building together to help support academic and social learning, foster inclusion, and facilitate access to the general education classroom to the benefit of all participants. At the grade school level, the program is called the Buddy Program. At the middle and high school level, the program is called the Peer Mentor Program. Inclusion Works currently partners with Medford School District and Central Point School District.
Joyce Wilson, the Executive Director, raised her 21year old daughter who experiences Down syndrome, in a fully inclusive environment. She was fortunate to have been in a school district which honored her wishes to have Ariel in General Education. When Ariel was getting ready to enter Middle School, she strongly expressed that she did not want an adult attending her general education classes with her. Without an educational assistant, Joyce was not sure the team would feel there was enough support for her. Joyce knew that being included (with the proper supports) was the best opportunity for her.
She met with Ariel’s middle school team, explained her position and brainstormed how, as a team, they would go about supporting Ariel. With a team of motivated teachers, they moved forward with her idea of having peers be a natural support in the classroom. There was no formal type of program and this was not something that had been done before at her school. At the 2 week follow up team meeting it was clear that this was the best decision not only for Ariel, but for her peers as well. Ariel was already connected with several of her peers who naturally saw the need for support and were happy to assist. In fact, some of her peers said that getting to help her made coming to school exciting. She began getting text messages at night asking if she needed help with homework, was invited to peers’ houses for playdates and sleepovers, birthday parties etc. What Joyce believed should just be the “norm” for every student was taking place and Ariel, needless to say, loved every minute of it. The friendships she gained, the academics she learned, the social skills she developed and the everlasting life experiences were just a small part of what inclusion provided for Ariel.
Ariel continued the rest of her academic career in an inclusive environment and continued to thrive. She is now working as a teachers Aide at a local preschool and has been there for 5 years. She continues to carry on the relationships she built while in school. She also volunteers 15-20 hours a week at her church helping to serve in the café to several hundred people in her community every weekend.
Seeing how successful one could be from this kind of program, Joyce, along with the support of the organization’s board of directors, designed a unique Peer-to-Peer Mentor Program curriculum. This program takes students out of segregated environments and gives those students the same opportunity to receive education alongside their peers. This program is widely accessed within several schools across the Rogue Valley.
“When I signed up for this program, I had no idea that I would actually learn something too. I think maybe I learned more than my mentee.” – 8th Grade Mentor
“The Mentees aren’t the only one who receive the support. Often time, the mentors benefit as well. They may be able to teach a brother or sister at home. They may be able to help other students who they weren’t assigned to. Maybe it’s just a friend that their helping out and it kind of stays with them for their lifetime. If you think that you can help somebody, you take that with you outside of school.” – Leslie Marin, Check & Connect Mentor
“I think it’s important because some children need help, like with math, and so those buddies can help them.” – Caden, 1st Grade Student Mentee
“The Peer Mentor Program has helped me in many ways. My parents even said it’s made a difference in me.” – Jake, 11th Grade Student Mentor
“This is a really tangible way that kids and the adults that participate in this program get to help shape that change and get to inspire kids to realize their own potential. I think programs like this are what is going to be the change of the world.” – Kelly Smith
“It makes me feel so happy. It makes me have a better life.” – Taeson, 1st Grade Mentee
“As an administrator, it’s very gratifying to see a program like this taking place with our students connecting better around students who have special needs.” -Dan Smith, High School Principal
“It’s given students an opportunity to get together to support students in classrooms with schoolwork, or on the playground with some social skill building, and for those relationships to blossom across the school.” – Cara Taylor, Elementary School Teacher
If you are interested in starting the Peer Mentor Program in your school district, please contact:
Heather Aragon – 541-500-4846
Monday through Friday
8:00am – 4:00pm