Mentors help students see eye-to-eye

June 10, 2010 11:14:23 AM PDT
Mentoring is a win-win opportunity. Mentors feel rewarded, mentees gain valuable experience. Project Eye-to-Eye's mentoring program puts students together who share the same disability.

At Golf Middle School in Morton Grove, 7th graders with learning disabilities are mentored by college students who also have learning disabilities.

"We're doing an art project that can kind of help people explain their learning styles. We use an example of a can of peas-- you can see that it's a can of peas by the picture, but if you are a person you can't see their learning style," said David Kessler.

Kessler is the coordinator of this program and a person with a learning disability.

"Project Eye-to-Eye started in 1994 at Brown University with the sole goal of trying to pair mentors with mentees to try to do meta-cognitive work to help people understand their learning styles," Kessler said.

Twenty-seven states have this program. Golf Middle School is the only one in Illinois, says special educator Bari Levin.

"For me, personally, just being part of this process has been incredible as an educator, because I've been teaching for 23 years and I've never been able to talk with my students and have this open dialogue that I've never had before talking about their learning disabilities," said Levin.

They just completed their third year and so far it's been a success.

"The first year we ran the program we only had four people, including the mentors, and now it's much larger. We run into more programs as far as recruiting because it's really hard to out yourself as an LD student. People typically like to deny that rather than embrace it," Levin said.

Thirteen-year-old Denna Deeb has been in the program for one year.

"I think it's a good place because you get to express yourself, and people who have learning disabilities like you and they get you through things," Denna said.

"For Golf Middle School, at this point, hasn't cost us a cent. Our goal is to maintain the chapter so we need to work on getting some more funding. We'd like to expand this in Illinois and get this into more schools," said Levin.

To learn more about Project Eye-to-Eye go to www.projecteyetoeye.org.

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