More Than Just a Helper

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More Than Just a Helper

Sullivan Barbour (9) poses for the camera, while his mentor Abbey Jeffries (11) smiles beside him. Abbey spent her third block of second quarters assisting Sullivan in English class. “It’s just like having another friend, you just help them out a little bit more,” Jeffries said.

Sullivan Barbour (9) poses for the camera, while his mentor Abbey Jeffries (11) smiles beside him. Abbey spent her third block of second quarters assisting Sullivan in English class. “It’s just like having another friend, you just help them out a little bit more,” Jeffries said.

Sullivan Barbour (9) poses for the camera, while his mentor Abbey Jeffries (11) smiles beside him. Abbey spent her third block of second quarters assisting Sullivan in English class. “It’s just like having another friend, you just help them out a little bit more,” Jeffries said.

Sullivan Barbour (9) poses for the camera, while his mentor Abbey Jeffries (11) smiles beside him. Abbey spent her third block of second quarters assisting Sullivan in English class. “It’s just like having another friend, you just help them out a little bit more,” Jeffries said.

Aubrei Grisaffe

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The bell concluding second hour rings, and the student body is heading in all directions, finishing homework last minute, rushing as fast as they can to the STC, or just using the passing period to socialize with friends. But, for Abbey Jeffries (11) third block is a bit different than for other students in her grade. Rather than walking to a “normal” class, she walks to the S-building, where Mrs. Moylan’s freshman english class is. Since she is a junior, she isn’t there to learn, but instead she is there to help Sullivan Barbour (9) in his class. 

Jeffries is a part of a new program at school known as peer mentoring. The program is an application based class that pairs everyday students with students in the inclusion program. 

Principal Jim Franz has been a great advocate for the program, and believes that it is one of the greatest ways that the school has grown in recent years. 

“The implementation of the Rother program two years ago has been one of the best points of growth for Bishop Kelley in those years,” Franz said.

Although the program is relatively new to the school, it has already developed into something different than it was last year. The inclusion program started with having adults on staff to follow the students to each of their classes, but now it is a class that regular students can elect to take for one of their classes during the day. This change came about after several staff members attended two conferences over the summer. 

“We went to two major conventions last year and saw some other schools who use the peer mentor program,” Franz said.

The peer mentors have a wide range of jobs to do to assist their buddy. They have to keep their friend on task, help them to complete their work, and sometimes they just have to help to have the needs of their friend met in a way that a teacher who is in charge of an upwards of twenty kids cannot. Arguably their most important job, however, is to be a friend. It is this relationship that sets apart a peer mentor from just a classroom helper. 

“They help facilitate what’s manageable for this, how to do that, and act as kind of the intermediary between classroom and that student, you know a friend. They have the same need for friendship and affirmation that you do,” Franz said.

 Another advocate for the Inclusion program is Mrs. Debbie Briedwell, a learning specialist at the school. She was excited to see a growth in the engagement of the kids in the inclusion program after the adoption of peer-mentoring. 

“The kids are more engaged, and fellow students, even those that aren’t their assigned mentor are more willing to help our students in the inclusion program, “ Briedwell said. 

The effects on the kids being mentored are awesome, but they are not the only ones that are gaining something out of the experience. Briedwell also described the phenomenon of past mentors asking to come back because of the experiences that they’ve had with their buddy. 

“The mentors love their role so much that they come back and say that they would like to sign up for another quarter of peer mentoring,” Briedwell said. 

While it would be easy to assume that Barbour was the only one learning, Jeffries also was given the opportunity to learn firsthand on what it’s like to be around someone with special needs. She was surprised to learn how high functioning Barbour was. 

“I didn’t realize how high functioning [children with special needs] are, so I was really shocked at the things he could do,” Jeffries said.

Many people who have not gotten opportunities to work with people with special needs often have a predisposed idea that their friendship with a special needs person could never be a real friendship. As they gain experience, like Jeffries, many realize that they aren’t too different after all, it just takes a bit more assistance on their part. 

“It’s just like having another friend, you just help them out a little bit more,” Jeffries said.

When the bell ending second block rings, and everyone is heading in every way possible, Abbey Jeffries goes to do something a bit different than math, science, or English, but is equally as important. She not only gets to help her friend, but she also gets the impact the entire school community by being a friend to a freshman boy who just so happens to have Down’s Syndrome. She is more than just a helper, she is a friend, and that is the most important thing anyone can be.