Special needs mentors celebrated at awards ceremony

Special needs mentors celebrated at awards ceremony

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WYANDOTTE, Mich. (WJBK) - In a sea of the end of school year awards ceremonies this one stands out.

Students and staff members gathered Friday at The Lincoln Center in Wyandotte for the first ever mentor celebration honoring special needs mentors who work with and help teach younger students at their school.

The program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, matches students with cognitive and emotional impairments with younger special needs children facing similar challenges.

"You have a chance here at school to help them and show them what the rules are around here," says 17-year-old Clyde Beal. He was the school's first mentor and thanks to his success they added more, including Nathan Sands who's made a huge difference for a third grade boy.

"We have flashcards to do reading ... he reads a lot. I taught him how to read," Sands says.

In order to be a mentor, the older students must be doing well in their own classrooms and they must demonstrate responsibility. Organizers say this program benefits the mentors as much as the students they work with.

"They really like working with the younger kids. It give them a sense of pride, gives them a sense of belonging," says special education teacher Tara Johnson.

"It's a huge boost that someone's listening to them and someone's looking up to them, and someone's looking at them like they're so important," says special education teacher Kelly Blanks.

In a video presentation and an awards ceremony the mentors were singled out and honored for their outstanding efforts, helping teach academic and social skills alongside hardworking teachers and paraprofessionals.

They prove all of us can make a difference, regardless of whatever obstacles may stand in the way.

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