Clear Lake Elementary students are linking up with their peers

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Staff Writer
OXFORD – Clear Lake Elementary students are linking up to connect with one another through the school’s new Link program.
“We’re very honored as a school to have such diversity in learning, and when it comes to special education, to be able to provide the resources and the services for such diverse learners in our building,” said principal Stephanie Niemi during the regular school board meeting on Oct. 24. “This school year, we also have, for the district at the elementary level, we also have an emotional impairment program. This is in addition to our moderate cognitive impairment program as well.”
To give students a sense of inclusion and community, Clear Lake Elementary has implemented the Link program and Link classrooms.
“We have other students in the building that might have diverse learning needs,” she said. “Having a sense of inclusion and belonging is really important to us. The expectation is that in a Link classroom, we would have peers within the classroom that would volunteer to be a Link peer.”
Link peers are fully volunteer, and they work with the school social worker, the family school liaison, the speech pathologist and Niemi to be able to build their skills in working with other students and in the skills of their diverse learners.
“Through this, we have 60 students this year,” said Niemi. “Our Link classrooms range from K-3 currently. It’s been amazing, because this is voluntary. Students volunteer to be a Link.”
Link peers work with other students to help foster a positive classroom environment and help other students connect to peers.
“It’s a wonder that no matter where the learning space, that students from all grades, all abilities, are able to come into school at Clear Lake and feel connected to their peers,” said Niemi. “Because research really shows that when we are trying to work with those kids at school on social skills, communication skills, self-management, children learn best from their peers.”
This program is in addition to all of the other services offered at the school.
“While they have other services with adults, the learning that they do just through peer connection is so valuable,” she said. “It really takes the peers and the whole learning community.”

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