Byron Center — Byron Center Public Schools recently dedicated an entire week to promoting awareness of different disabilities and learning about how to make schools and communities more inclusive for everyone.
Peer-to-peer LINKS programs in every school helped organize Inclusion Week, where students participated in activities and classroom lessons centered around inclusion and friendship.
At West Middle School, students played games centered around learning about inclusion and how to actively include and encourage classmates to join in the activities.
The middle school’s LINKS program launched in fall 2022. Due to an increasing interest in the program, the club evolved to a class students can choose as one of their electives this year.
Katie Tromp, West Middle School’s LINKS advisor, now facilitates a class of 20 seventh- and eighth-grade students who meet with their mentees in the special education classrooms for an hour every day.
“Now it’s an elective and it’s awesome,” Tromp said. “They can build relationships with their peers and are forming true friendships with each other every day.”
Byron Center High School’s long-established LINKS class focuses on basic living and work such as laundry, cooking and social skills.
Eighth-grader Lily Holland joined LINKS last year and signed up for the first class offered this year.
“It’s such a cool experience, because instead of taking a language or gym you get to help kids,” she said.
LINKS student Taylor Zeinstra added: “We get to help (our peers) with their needs and that’s what they need in the future, is friendships.”