From left, Lucas Philbrook (Grade 9), Lily Clifford (Grade 12) and Noah Kent (Grade 9), participating in the Unified Literacy Program at Morse High School. Contributed

Morse High School has launched the Unified Literacy Program that pairs students with intellectual disabilities with student mentors.

Morse librarian Dawn Lee and life skills teacher Jonathan Fisk were inspired by the success of the unified athletics program to create a program that promotes a love of reading, fosters literacy skills and cultivates positive social relationships.

“So much of our day is spent in the Life Skills classroom,” said Fisk. “It’s nice for the students to be seen, both physically and emotionally.”

For one hour three times a week, six literacy mentors meet one-on-one with six students involved in the Morse Function Life Skills program.

Each week the program focuses on a different topic, such as black inventors in honor of Black History Month or the Alaskan dog sled race the Iditarod.

“I did unified basketball last year and unified P.E. this fall, so I had already met a lot of the kids that are in the Unified Literacy Program,” Morse senior and literacy mentor Lily Clifford said. “I like making one-on-one connections, and I think it’s great that the class meets in the library where we can be seen by the rest of the student body. Visibility is super important.”

Students also get biweekly visits from senior Kaitlyn Schutt, who is enrolled in the Bath Tech Early Childhood Education program and aspires to become an art educator.

Fisk and Lee said they will call the program a success if they can provide mentors with the guidance and tools to build positive relationships with their mentees that carry beyond the walls of the library.

“What I love is when our mentors see their mentees in the hall and wave hi,” said Lee, who was particularly moved when she saw one of the Literacy Mentors take time to introduce her sister to her mentee. “Building these relationships builds a stronger community in our school.”

Student artwork for the Chinese New Year as facilitated by student literacy mentor Kaitlyn Schutt. Contributed

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