Peer to Peer and SNAP are having a positive impact at Dexter High School


Students in the SNAP club having some fun. photo courtesy of Dexter High School

There are two unique programs at Dexter High School focusing on helping students connect in a positive way with an emphasis on care, inclusion and empathy.

Both of these programs were recently presented at a Dexter school board meeting. To learn more, The Sun Times News followed up with the teachers who are helping to lead them.

Kellison Kohler and Kalli Nowitzke both teach in the special education department at DHS in the high needs resource room. They along with some students shared with the school board what they've been doing in the S.N.A.P. and Peer to Peer programs.

The programs are very similar, but with some differences.

Kohler and Nowitzke said the Peer to Peer program at the high school is new this school year, but pieces of the program have been running for years in some form.

Of Peer to Peer, they said, “This is a statewide program (a project started by Grand Valley State) that has improved all students' feeling of belonging, which studies have found has increased academic grades and attendance specifically for the peers involved as well.”

In explaining the program, they said, “Peers (i.e., students who aren't in the high needs resource room) enroll in our Peer to Peer course. There is an introduction class in which peer students learn the basics of learning differences, how to communicate with students with higher needs, how to interact with people with higher needs and how to advocate for students with higher needs. The peers explore other programs in the district and participate in Community Based Instruction. The peers problem solve through daily challenges that occur and we discuss solutions as a group. The peers get paired up with a specific student and create a social, behavioral or academic goal for the student. The peer makes a plan to achieve the goal and tracks the progress. Once the peers have completed a semester of the introduction course then they can move on to supporting students in more of a leadership role in their general education courses.”

There are currently 10 students enrolled in the course and it’s continuing to expand.

Nowitzke said, "I have found the program extremely rewarding to teach. It’s just a class full of happiness and smiles. Everyone is engaged and enjoying their time spent together. They’re learning life lessons on care, inclusion and empathy."

Here are two views from students involved.

One said, “It helps students like me better understand what people who have special needs, need help with and what they struggle with, and how we can help them and support them” while another said, “It not only allows the students in Peer to Peer to fully understand how to communicate with higher need students, but also students around the school.”

The other program is SNAP, which is short for Students Need Accepting Peers. It’s a club for all students that helps to build friendships for special education students.

Currently, DHS has 35 students who are involved in the SNAP club, which Kohler and Nowitzke describe in part as “a club where peers partner up at lunch, get together outside of school and plan field trips throughout the school year. This year we are working on SNAP leaders organizing birthday celebrations as well.

So far this year, they have had field trips to the State Capitol and Supreme Court, which aligned with their advocacy unit; a trip to the Potter Park zoo for a tour of careers around the zoo and a trip to the creature conservatory to study science inquiry. Outside of the classroom they have organized a homecoming dinner and dance group, a group to watch the school play and a Halloween trick or treating group. The students have also made a visit to the movies and Dexter football games.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified