Mentoring program connects special education and mainstream students in Clovis Unified

A group of students at Kastner Intermediate School is working on a connection that will benefit them in and outside the classroom.

Each one signed up to be in "Collaborative Mentoring," the program pairs mainstream students with special education students.

"The program was born out of the necessity for a true mainstream experience for our special needs kids. And we were noticing in our elective classes several years ago that there was no interaction between the general education kids and special educations kids," said Dava Parks, Kastner Intermediate School Teacher

Dava Parks is the advisor for the program. When Collaborative Mentoring began five years ago, she had to recruit students. This year she said there was a waiting list and some students had to be turned away.

Of the 17 students who made the cut, they work one-on-one with the special education students during one class period, four days a week.

"They come away so much more mature, with so much more patience. There are long-term friendships formed between the special education kids and the general education kids," said Parks. "It just has been successful beyond our wildest dreams."

Before mentoring, the mainstream education students go through training to teach them about disabilities and special education law.

But one of the mentors this year eighth-grade student Chole Renfro said it is the one on one experience that's the most valuable.

"And whenever I am having like a down day they always brighten up my day, and it just makes me feel good inside right after I am done helping them at the end of the day," said Renfro.

Wednesday, each mentor, worked with a special education student on an art project involving ceramics.

"I like the way when the mentor helps us and they are proud and are kind and a lot of good stuff, they can help with," said Noah, special education student.

The success of the Collaborative Mentoring at Kastner helped create one at Clovis West High School, allowing mentors to continue in the program next year.
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