Peer Mentors Program
Who are Peer Mentors?
A brief reflection about how the Peer Mentor component of the St. Andre Bessette Open Doors Inclusion Program came to be:
As our administrative team and director researched different methods of operating an inclusion program, they traveled all over the United States to observe and learn about successful peer mentoring programs in action. After much research and conversations with leading experts in the fields of inclusive education and peer mentoring, such as Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, California; University of Notre Dame (Dr. Christie Bonfiglio), University of Kansas (Dr. Sean Smith), and Texas Christian University (Dr. Michael Fagella-Luby), a visit to Pope John Paul II High School Hendersonville, Tennessee - just outside of Nashville - would be the catalyst and final resource for SMCC to begin the Peer Mentor component of our inclusion program. School Headmaster Michael Deely, Hand in Hand Options Program Director Kim Shaver, and their wonderful faculty and staff selflessly assisted our team in creating a successful Peer Mentor component and further improving both our inclusion and academic support programs. We will forever be grateful for our "friends from Nashville" for not only being such an amazing resource for us but also helping to reaffirm our mission and belief in the overreaching goals of the St. Andre Bessette Open Doors Inclusion Program and Academic Support Program.
One of the unique facets of the St. Andre Bessette Open Doors Inclusion program is this Peer Mentor component, which allows for our inclusion program students to receive 1-to-1 support within the "regular" education classroom from a trained upperclassman. Our peer mentors are typically juniors or seniors in high academic standing who have expressed an interest in the fields of special education, education, social work, or nursing or just sincerely enjoy helping others to succeed. Interested students apply, interview, and, if selected, register to be a peer mentor on a semester basis. Students chosen to be peer mentors are then matched with an inclusion student, attend a particular class with that inclusion student, and then receive an elective credit for their participation in the program. Peer mentors serve many of the functions of a "paraprofessional" in a public school setting. Often, our peer mentors are giving up their option of having a study hall to help their inclusion student.
Responsibilities of a peer mentor include:
Training Our Peer Mentors
Prior to the beginning of the school year, the selected peer mentors undergo training from the Director of Inclusion, Kyle McElvany. Training includes a review of the inclusion student's strengths and weaknesses, strategies for success, a history of particular disabilities, the difference between accommodations and modifications, various strategies of utilizing technology while working with a student with a disability, and much more. A substantial amount of training is comprised of materials from the University of Notre Dame Program for Inclusion Education, which includes an annual summer visit to the University of Notre Dame to observe classes. Peer mentors also receive monthly training in various topics within special education. While we do not expect our peer mentors to become special education experts in such a short amount of time, with the support of our administration, faculty, Director of Inclusion, and our inclusion students' parents, we strive to provide our peer mentors with the highest level of support we can. All peer mentors have the ability to message our Director of Inclusion or principal at any time via an app on their iPad when they have a question regarding their inclusion student or are unsure about how to handle a particular situation. Approximately 95% of our peer mentors sign up to be a mentor for more than one semester!
Click the link to learn more information on our Peer Mentors program from a presentation shared with the SMCC faculty: 2019 Peer Mentors Program
More Information on Our Peer Mentors Program
Mr. Kyle McElvany
Director of Inclusion
734-241-7622 ext. 187
"I love working with Jacob and being able to help him out. I wanted to do it because I liked the idea of making a difference in someone’s life. The best part about it is seeing the smile on his face when I walk in the class and he sees me. He told me that he likes me helping him, and I make learning fun."
To learn more about what is required of our peer mentors, please click below to view a copy of the syllabus:
2019-2020 Peer Mentor Syllabus
"I like being a peer mentor because I love helping and being involved. I love when Jacob and Zack have an 'aha' moment, especially when I am helping them to understand. I wanted to be a peer mentor because I want to be a pediatric nurse, and helping students with a learning disability will definitely help in the future. The best part about being a peer mentor is the friendship that I formed with Zack and Jacob. They knew that they could trust me and come to me when they needed help. I would definitely be a peer mentor again! I love it!"
- Kristen M., Class of 2020
Above: Head Football Coach Adam Kipf, (2019 Michigan High School Football Coach of the Year and State Champion) always welcomes Jacob (Class of 2021) into his classroom to say hello and check in on how school and life are going. Coach Kipf has also had numerous inclusion students in his history courses. The faculty at St. Mary Catholic Central strive to build relationships with our inclusion students so that they feel comfortable in any classroom they walk into.