In October we had the opportunity to facilitate two peer mentoring workshops with over 100 high school students from Glenbrook South and Highland Park High Schools. Peer mentoring creates opportunities for students with and without disabilities to bond and form relationships throughout the year. NSSRA has hosted peer mentoring training in partnership with GBS for nearly 30 years, and this year was our inaugural year with HPHS.
This year students participated in activities designed to help them advocate for and empower those with disabilities. Communication-focused games like telephone (but no words allowed!) helped students put themselves in someone else’s shoes and learn skills to communicate more inclusively. Students commented that they learned how to adapt their communication styles to the specific needs of the individual they are communicating with, rather than become upset that they aren’t being understood.
NSSRA full-time staff also led students through engaging discussions on how to help empower those with disabilities to make friends and be an integrated part of their school communities.
Once trained, peer mentors are paired with one or several students, sometimes in a special education classroom or in an activity outside the classroom, like PE. The program serves as a bridge builder between students in general education and special education classes, assisting in creating an atmosphere of belonging at school for everyone.