Santiago High School Students Help Provide Special Education Students with Full High School Experience

Every Friday morning, students from Garden Grove Unified School District’s Special Education Center at Mark Twain gain a rewarding high school experience when they visit Santiago High School for a unique cross-school collaboration opportunity called Peer 2 Peer.

When the bus arrives, Santiago High School students greet Mark Twain students and welcome them into a variety of classes, including Careers in Education, Drama, Physical Education, Ceramics, Dance and ASB.  Students involved in Santiago’s Careers in Education classes, plan lessons and get their first experience teaching when they are paired up with their SEC peers. Students in the other classes welcome their peers from Mark Twain to sit next to them and support their participation.  

The Peer 2 Peer concept was created by Wendy Kinney, the school psychologist at both Santiago and Mark Twain, as a new opportunity for her Mark Twain students.  Through the efforts of Trisha Nash (SLP), La Donna Fooladivianda (SPED), and Susie Morganstern (ROP), the Peer 2 Peer program has grown bigger and stronger each year. The collaborative activity of merging the two programs benefits all students on many levels.

“Our students have shown to be accepting, compassionate, and caring and this program serves to strengthen those traits,” said Walter Muneton Board of Education trustee.  “This program enriches the lives of general education and special education students.” 

During lunch, volunteers from Advanced Placement Psychology and the California Scholarship Federation “buddy up” with Mark Twain students. This allows the students time to socialize and get to know the Mark Twain students better. Mark Twain staff educates the Santiago volunteers on various feeding and communication techniques. 

Students from Mark Twain are given the full high school experience, attending spirit assemblies, dances, concerts in the quad, and football games. Santiago students are working with Mark Twain students on their softball skills, so they can use what they learn to play in a softball game during the spring. Another highlight every year is when the seniors from Mark Twain join their peers at the Santiago Prom. 

The Peer 2 Peer experience teaches the Santiago students the importance of being civic minded, one of the  goals for the Santiago Cavaliers.