February 2016 Pilot School of the Month is Danville High School

The Kentucky Peer Support Network Project is pleased to announce that our pilot school of the month for February 2016 is Danville High School, home of the Admirals! A part of the project since 2014, Danville has a very active group of peer networks for 15 students with significant disabilities. Each of these students also receives peer support in at least one general education classroom.

One reason that DHS has seen such success is due to the dedication of teachers Bridget Mountjoy and Amy Hurst. And the dedication seems to be paying off! Student networks have led to many inclusive activities outside the school setting, including attending sporting events, dances, dinners, movies, bowling, art activities, performing arts, and even an overnight field trip. According to Bridget, data and anecdotes show students receiving support are “making more friends and having more fun.” Students providing support “are sticking with the program and more and more students are expressing interest… students are enjoying serving as supports and building friendships with all types of people.” Another activity that teacher Amy Hurst facilitates is a service learning project for students with and without disabilities. They work at the Grace Café (a pay-what-can restaurant) every Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the restaurant to open to the community Wednesday thru Sunday.

Below is a passage from Pilot Site Team Leader, Bridget Mountjoy:

“Friends are Primary.”

When asked about the purpose of high school, a wise student said, “Schools should place testing and all that other stuff as secondary priorities. Friends are primary. Friends are what matter.” At Danville High School, we have a focus on friendship – authentic friendships based on genuine, shared interests. The Kentucky Peer Support Project has helped us refine our facilitation of friendships and stay the course for this primary focus. Since participating in the Kentucky Peer Support Project, Danville High School students and staff have organized an inclusive social club called AdsCORPS (Admirals Collaborating for Outstanding Relationships and Peer Supports). Over 200 students participate in AdsCORPS in a variety of ways. Some students serve as Peer Tutors, collaborate with peers as Peer Supports and interact socially with peers in Peer Networks. AdsCORPS events, including outings to sporting events, cultural arts events, performing arts events, dances, meals, and other events, are open to all students and promoted via social media and word-of-mouth. AdsCORPS meets during school twice per week, and AdsCORPS members socialize, play games, create crafts and plan other social activities. All AdsCORPS members report enjoyment and expanded friendship circles as a result of the Kentucky Peer Support Project. Parents of students who participate in AdsCORPS report that their children are happier and more social. Teachers report that students who participate in AdsCORPS express greater empathy and interest for their classmates. These positive – though not surprising – results fuel our efforts and firm our stance that friends ARE primary and schools should put forth efforts to facilitate friendships.

We are so proud of the school staff and students doing great things at Danville High School! Be sure to check our blog each month to read about more pilot schools of the month.