T.I.E.S. program links students together


Kaylee Hamilton, InDesign Editor

The news is filled with stories about increasing mandates for public schools, the rare negative experiences, bullying, and lawsuits.  Very seldom do the benefits get a shining spot in the lime light. In 2012, Howell High School introduced a program for students to have the opportunity to mentor a peer with special needs. This program was named T.I.E.S.  which stands for Teaching, Interacting, [and] Encouraging, Students.

By linking students together through a connection or a tie, students can learn from each other and hopefully have a positive experience throughout their years at school.

“Educators have learned that students benefit from learning from their peers and seeing how they act,” school speech therapist Mrs. Mitchell says.

Due to a statewide education goal to develop more peer programs, Howell High School introduced a unique peer program which has been modeled after Brighton High School. Howell developed its own program to connect and support its students.

Students are trained to mentor and support a peer with special needs. The peer mentor is called the T.I.E. student. He or she accompanies a peer with special needs to one of his or her general or special education classes. Within the T.I.E.S. program, the student with special needs is referred to as the “student.”

“[This program] encourages kids to think of someone other than themselves and find out how they can help others,” Mrs.Mitchell says.

The mentor does not help tutor or complete the student’s work but rather sets an example for them. The mentor supports and models academic skills, social skills, and behavior in order to guide their student(s) to success.

Mentors and their student(s) often build friendships that would have not otherwise occurred if they were not involved in this program.

“It’s good for students to interact with other students,” one student with a mentor says.

However, the program has given much more than just a general elective credit to students. All involved say that this program is an opportunity to make new friends and to see growth in each other.

“T.I.E.S. has been the best program I’ve been apart of in my career. It has been amazing to see the bridge between general education and special education students,” Mrs. Mitchell says.

The program started with 10 students: 5 mentors and 5 students with special needs. In the school year for 2014-2015, over 60 students have participated in the program.

“It is amazing to see the students being happier at school,” Mrs.Mitchell says smiling.

Mentors and students alike were asked how this program can be described in a single word. It was difficult for many to use just one word but the responses were overwhelming: teamwork, patience, uplifting, life-changing, amazing, helpful.

“Having a T.I.E. makes school better,” one student says.

Mentors improve their own leadership, patience, and understanding of individual differences. The special education students whom have been mentored demonstrate improvements in social skills as well as their understanding with school work.

Mrs. Mihail and Mrs. Mitchell would like to add that this program would not work as smoothly without the support from the students, teachers, counselors and administration. The team effort involved is what has created such a wonderful program.

One T.I.E.S. mentor, junior Hannah Gariepy, notes how being a part of this program has changed her life. She now would like to have a future working with special education students.

“I would recommend this class to anyone because working with these kids makes you realize how much they all love life and love who they are which is something I think we all need to learn,” Gariepy says.

High school is much more than just earning grades, it is about learning to accept others and help them along in the process. This program has spread the love of life to all involved.

“It [T.I.E.S.] made me accept ‘different’ in a ‘normal’ way,” Gariepy says.

Interested students may contact Mrs. Mitchell at [email protected] or Mrs. Mihail at [email protected] for more information.