LEMONT – During a morning snack break from his summer school class, Lemont High School student Johnny Greanias was spending time at a lunch table with some of his new friends.
"I've been talking to Sarah, Taylor, Skylar and Collette," he said.
Twelve honor students are volunteering to help students in the special education program during a summer class called “Summer, Science, STEM – Oh My!”
The students work together on hands-on activities for four hours each Tuesday.
This is the first summer for this collaborative program, which is being funded by a grant from the Lemont High School Educational Foundation. The grant helps pay for class materials and field trips.
Special education teacher Michael Beranek, who applied for the grant, said the purpose of the program is to expose the honor students to different kinds of disabilities and the special education students to good student role models.
"We want to expose [special education students] to curriculum at their level as well as curriculum that just gives them exposure to higher level concepts," he said.
Beranek said the honor students are able to give immediate feedback to the special education students who have questions.
Having students their own age also gives the special education students someone to relate to, instead of an authority figure, he said.
"If those honor students weren't there helping us and supporting us, I feel this [class] would be very difficult to have," he said.
Greanias said the class has been more fun than he expected.
"It's amazing," he said. "These honor students are really intelligent and so are some of the special ed kids."
Skylar Lefevers, one of the honor students, said she is volunteering because it is a way to help the special education students while working in a subject she is likes.
"It's been a lot more fun and a hands-on thing," she said. "I thought it was going to be more like a class."
She said the experience has given her a better understanding of the special education students.
"Their capabilities are way more expanded than it seems," she said.
Mallory Douglas and Alyssa Wood were already family friends before they joined the class together.
Douglas and Wood said the class is more fun than school, but they are still learning.
"If we weren't [learning], it wouldn't be called summer school," Wood said.
Beranek said he hopes the program will help the special education students build new connections for during the regular school year.
"Now you have a new person you can ask for help and get support from," he said.
Some of the activities in the “Summer, Science, STEM – Oh My!” class have included working with beetles to see how much weight they can pull and making bird houses.