FENTON (WJRT) (3/23/2018) - Only in its first year, a new program at Lake Fenton Middle School is already benefiting dozens of students.
LINK is a volunteer-based program for students to step into a different role.
Claire, an eighth-grade LINK buddy, plays with Dean thanks to the program that joins students with their special needs peers.
"It was created to link up a regular ed student with a student with special needs to help them have a social buddy, someone to help them in the classroom. Someone to understand what is going on," said Special Education Teacher Sherrie Garty.
In its first year, the program is already seeing dozens of students volunteering.
"I don't make it a big deal that I'm there," Jordan said. "I just act like one of the other students. But if he's struggling with something I'll talk him through it and help him with it. This is one of the best electives I've had because he's just fun to be around. He's always happy and puts me in a better mood."
Students use the time with their LINK peers supporting them during classroom time, which also supports their social skills. For Taylor, Claire is someone she continues to rely on.
"On the phone, online, everywhere we can talk," Taylor said. "Homework, when I'm a home I will text her and FaceTime her a lot."
The LINK program is still in it's beginning phases but teachers say they're already seeing a big difference in the participants.
"They understand at a deeper level exactly what this program happens to be," Garty said. "I love knowing that they understand its social acceptance."