High school student with Down syndrome inspires peer mentor program

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Friday, March 31, 2023
High school student with Down syndrome inspires peer mentor program
Michael Schuller is paving the way for other students with intellectual disabilities to be fully integrated in a high school environment.

RADNOR, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- When asked what his favorite part of school is, 16-year-old Michael Schuller said, "Friends."

The freshman at Archbishop Carroll High School has quite a few of them now thanks to a Peer Mentoring program.

"We were sort of put in touch with a few different people...and they were looking for somewhere that Michael could attend high school," said Principal Bill Gennaro. "So, we started this peer mentoring program this year when we were made aware that Mike was going to be attending Archbishop Carroll."

Gennaro generated interest among rising seniors last year and instructed them to write essays about their desire to become mentors. Upon the start of the school year, eight students were selected to partner up with Schuller during every class period.

"One goes to each class with Michael modifying work, helping him with work helping the teacher, and that's really the difference," said Gennaro. "Michael is, by all means, a regular Archbishop Carroll student."

His classmates seem to agree.

"Michael has become like my built-in best friend, like I've known him for years, but it's been seven months," said the soon-to-be-graduating senior, Domenic Venini. "Obviously, leaving is going to be sad, but I've already made it my goal every time I'm home from college, I will be coming right back here to see him."

Students are already signing up to be peer mentors next year. In addition, local elementary students with disabilities are being considered for enrolling in the peer mentoring program in the future.

In the meantime, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia continues to offer enrollment in two schools of special education and provides certain accommodations within secondary schools. To learn more, visit their website.

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