Teacher Monique Albright’s leadership class partnered with ESA students to create a “third hour hangout” every Friday in hopes of creating a more inclusive environment for students with disabilities. Design Editor Noah Jacobson | Staff Writer Caitlin Quinn | Staff Writer Theophilus Rammidi

ESA student Anna Carlson waves at everyone in her group. The students enthusiastically greet each other before each meeting.

Senior Jacob Maschino tells ESA student Gordon Powell a joke. The two enjoy talking together and being in each other’s company.

Senior Erin Vokal and ESA student Tanner Bowerson bond over Play-Doh. The two play a game guessing what object the other is sculpting.



Every Friday during third hour, the sound of laughter can be heard from various classrooms around the school as students participate in activities including playing Uno, making shamrock shakes, and sculpting with Play-Doh. This welcoming environment is Midland High’s new Peer-to-Peer group.
Peer-to-Peer is a research-based program that is backed by studies and universities where students with disabilities are given the opportunity to bond with other students.
The idea for the group was first drafted when Leadership teacher Monique Albright reached out to Special Education teacher Kelly Brandle hoping to create a program centered around inclusiveness for ESA students.
Brandle and Special Education teacher Sarah Tebo have been educated through training and research in order to understand how to run the group and know what activities could be beneficial to their students.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with the students that come from Monique’s class, they’re awesome and they’re just great with our kids,” Tebo said.
The meetings offer a unique experience for inclusion that most ESA students lack, because some of them are not enrolled in general education extracurriculars. The students’ time spent together has shown to be more socially beneficial than if they were to join a regular class.
“In peer-to-peer you’re showing up saying ‘this is my time to really connect with someone and learn about them,” Brandle said.
The meetings have given ESA students time to bond and socialize with general education students. Junior Andrew Chatman, a student in the leadership class, has noticed the benefits of the program firsthand.
“They have been impacted in a major way in being more included and have been given the opportunity to improve social skills and be more included in everyday life,” Chatman said.
Brandle explained that playing games and conversing one-on-one gives students a chance to enjoy normal, everyday high school experiences.
“This is an opportunity where they don’t have to be completing work but rather having a good time and really getting to know each other,” Brandle said.
Tebo said the friendships are important for the ESA students and the relationships can positively benefit their high school experiences. Students involved in the groups have noticed that the connections carry out beyond the group meetings.
“Everyone likes to pass by friends walking down the hall, say hi, and be acknowledged,” Tebo said. “It gives our students more of those opportunities than they’ve already had.”
The special education teachers particularly have enjoyed the interactions between the two groups of students. They are glad to see people making an effort to create close friendships and bonds.
“We love our students,” Tebo said “We know their personalities, their quirks, and I think it’s really fun to see other people get to know and appreciate them and learn their interests.”
ESA student Casey Harry has been enjoying his time in the group. He takes amusement in spending time with his fellow students and enjoyed playing games like Uno with them.
“It’s special to interact with the other kids because I don’t have a lot of friends and it helps me make more,” Harry said.
The meetings are a beginning for the student body as a whole to make a more accepting and understanding environment. Albright explained how being embracive comes about in all shapes and forms whether it be showing up to cheer on less popular sporting events or approaching someone new in class.
“We all say we are too busy but we could easily slow down to have a conversation with someone and really be inclusive,” Albright said.
Chatman said that a simple action of reaching out, showing kindness, and taking the time to really get to know another student can really make an impact.
“It’s eye opening how little something may seem, but how big it may be, and how largely it can impact someone’s life,” Chatman said.