It's a class that is blazing trails inside the walls of Hamilton Middle School. The Mentor Physical Education class created and led by Mrs. Liz VandeWege has served a multi-tiered purpose since its inception in 2018.
Every school day during seventh hour, Mrs. Sale's middle school daily living skills class heads to the gym for physical education. However, this isn't a typical gym class.
"This class is helping those with disabilities and students that have to be in other classes for their disabilities," said eighth grade helper, Grayden Lubbers. "We have them all as friends, and that's the best part of this class."
Every trimester, roughly fifteen seventh and eighth grade students are selected to become a class helper among dozens of applicants. These students are selected by Mrs. VandeWege and fellow teachers based on their leadership, social skills, and other characteristics.
"Oh it melts my heart," said Mrs. VandeWege, who created the class when she began at Hamilton Middle School. "I smile so much seeing them come up with different games and ways to help each other to make it more fun, it's the best thing in the world."
At the beginning of each class, helpers are paired with their student to help them achieve different individualized goals. For some students, goals can include running four laps without stopping, a ten-second plank or throwing a ball a few feet. No matter what their goal sheet looks like, the helpers take it upon themselves to help that student achieve.
"It helps the Intensive Resource Room students learn PE skills that they can hopefully translate into the rest of their life," VandeWege smiled. "However, it's also great for my seventh and eighth grade kids so they get experience working with other kids and learning about different disabilities."
Outside of the gym, the relationships carry over to the lunch room and hallway, where the helpers ensure each of their friends are taken care of.
"This class shows them a group of kids that really care about them and will help them through time of struggle," said eighth grade helper Brooke Petroelje. "They're not any different than us, they're our friends and we hangout with them every day."