Wheatland-Chili student featured in TIES video

By on August 26, 2019

On Tuesday, July 30, Wheatland-Chili student Brandon Clark was ready for his close up. The video crew adjusted the microphones and lighting as Brandon prepared to share his experiences with the TIES program. After the interview, Brandon joined his peer volunteer Michael to exercise in the weight room, an activity arranged around his specific interests. 

 TIES, which stands for Together Including Every Student, pairs students with developmental disabilities with peer volunteers to take part in social and community activities without parental involvement. These activities range from ice-skating to cooking classes to teen activity nights at the local library. TIES is a partnership with local nonprofit organization Starbridge, whose mission is to promote inclusivity so all individuals can lead fulfilling lives in their community.   

 “Thanks to TIES, students with disabilities who weren’t attending inclusive activities, or who were attending with an adult, can now be supported by a peer,” said Wheatland-Chili Director of Pupil Personnel Services Mary Vito. “We have seen tremendous benefits to both our volunteers and our participants, and an increase in confidence and self-esteem.”

Brandon’s interview will be part of an informational video about the TIES program commissioned by Starbridge. The purpose of the video is to demonstrate to Special Education Directors the value of the program. “Meeting new people is hard,” said Brandon in his interview. “Michael makes it easier.”

 Brandon’s peer volunteer for the afternoon is Michael LaTona. He is a junior at The College at Brockport. He first became involved with the TIES program as part of a class project for his Intro to Special Education class. Even after the project ended, LaTona continued to volunteer. “The project was to learn about the developmentally disabled population,” said LaTona. “But I’ve learned even more about myself. I would encourage anyone to volunteer. It’s a win-win.”

With the interviews wrapped up, Brandon and LaTona head to the weight room where they join Wheatland-Chili High School athletes for a work out.

“Inclusion is key,” said Wheatland-Chili TIES Coordinator Sarah Salamone. “It’s something that should be displayed to the entire community. That is the purpose of the TIES Program.”

Provided information and photos

Michael LaTona (left) joined Brandon Clark for a work out in the Wheatland-Chili weight room.

Michael LaTona (left) joined Brandon Clark for a work out in the Wheatland-Chili weight room.

Brandon Clark was interviewed about his experience with the TIES Program.

Brandon Clark was interviewed about his experience with the TIES Program.