students mentoring students

Developed as a collaborative effort by:

  • Georgia Robillard, Disability Services Coordinator, Lake Superior College
  • Sara Romagnoli, Employee Policy Consultant, Minnesota Department of Human Services
  • Steve Schoenbauer, Transition Coordinator, Northern Lights Special Education Cooperative

Improved and upgraded with the assistance of:

  • Melissa Watschke, Director of Disability Resource Center, College of St. Scholastica
  • Emily Norenberg, Director of Disability Resource Center, University of MN-Duluth

Program description:

e-college is an eight-week high school curriculum for students with disabilities. Its purpose is to utilize direct instruction to provide college bound students with the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully meet their postsecondary educational goals. A unique and powerful feature of this program is that student learning is reinforced through email mentoring with a successful college student who also has a disability.

The e-college curriculum seeks to make students aware of the vast difference between high school and college and provides them with methods for dealing with those differences. It promotes the development of skills in high school that will translate into success in college. It promotes self and disability awareness and the development of strong self-advocacy skills.

Each week of the curriculum focuses on a single topic or theme. For each topic, a variety of relevant activities, discussions, and resources are provided. Teachers may choose activities that best meet their students' needs. The curriculum can be used with large or small groups, in one-on-one settings, or even with homebound instruction.

Though each week of the curriculum has a specific focus topic, teachers are free to choose any combination of activities or to create her/his own to facilitate classroom discussion and student engagement. Each week, students send an email to their mentor for a sharing of experience and information on the focus topic of the week. Guided questions are provide to assist students.

A pool of possible mentors is identified by the college disability services coordinator. Mentors are selected because they have declared their disability, are successful in their college coursework, and are considered to be good self-advocates. Each mentor is provided with a parallel curriculum to that used in the classroom and goes through a short orientation and training. They are told to respond positively but honestly and based upon their personal experiences. Except for low incidents disabilities that create unique obstacles, mentor and mentees are matched by career path.

All e-mails are filtered by the high school classroom teacher. College mentors receive only the special education teacher's e-mail address and all of their correspondence goes directly to that teacher who then passes it along to the high school student. Similarly, the high school student's message is transferred to email and sent to the college mentor by the classroom teacher. In this manner, the special education teacher can monitor both incoming and outgoing correspondence and students never learn of each other's email addresses.

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