University School of Nashville (USN) celebrates the experience of learning differently as a Near-Peer Mentoring chapter
Every Tuesday afternoon, more than 30 neurodiverse Mentors and Mentees at the University School of Nashville (USN) transform a typical classroom space into a vibrant and exciting Art Room community that celebrates the experience of learning differently. This is the second year that USN has participated in Eye to Eye’s Near-Peer Mentoring Program, guided and supported by Debbie Van Slyke and Anna Claire McKay, two longtime educators and supporters of USN’s neurodiverse community. Each week, our USN Chapter Leaders– Harper, Jack, and Penelope– facilitate Eye to Eye’s curriculum and share their stories and lived experiences of learning differently.
Recently, USN completed the My Values Silhouette Project, the seventh Art Project in Eye to Eye’s Blue Curriculum sequence. In the My Values Silhouette Project, Mentors and Mentees come together to talk about beliefs and values, and discuss what is personally meaningful to them. They then create silhouette posters that feature an outline of who they are and the values that are personally important to them. Eye to Eye’s curriculum projects uniquely align with the foundational components and key factors for young adult success outlined in the UChicago Foundations for Young Adult Success Framework. The My Values Silhouette Project introduces values as a way for Mentees and Mentors to connect what’s important to them to the choices they make, a foundational component of young adult development. For neurodivergent youth in particular, connecting individual values to choices they make promotes the ability to make meaning of the experiences they have and make choices that lead to healthy and productive outcomes– developing the self-efficacy and agency needed for individual success.
Using Eye to Eye’s Mentee Design Books, USN Mentees thought about what’s important to them and brainstormed with their Mentors what some of their personal beliefs and values are today. Then, pairs transitioned into tracing each other’s heads to make silhouettes– a silly process that created realistic portraits of each individual. After creating their silhouettes, participants decorated their posters with some of their most important beliefs and values. They discussed the choices they could make aligned with what matters to them now and in the future. Mentees identified a wide range of values, including school (education), creativity, positivity, maintaining friendships, staying organized, always getting better at what they’re good at (especially math!), and being a good team player. One Mentee even suggested adding “pursuing personal interests” as an additional value example to Mentee Design Books to help other Mentees think about what’s important to them. We also loved that many Mentees said they value being part of their Eye to Eye community– and we hope they’ll hold that value to become Mentors in a few years!
The Art Room ended with a group reflection and sharing of projects, from which it became clear to the leaders of our USN Chapter community that this project, in particular, sparked a different level of creativity and uninhibited joy in their Art Room. Harper, Jack, and Penelope shared that this has been the most excited and engaged Mentees and Mentors have been this year, and we can’t wait to see what they do next week!
1. UCHICAGO CCSR Concept Paper | Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework 4 success.