Women wearing head scarf with head on desk and hands, looking at two children

Seeing Eye to Eye Through Mentorship

Anyone who’s been there will agree: Middle school is hard. And for middle school students with learning disabilities, it can often feel like they’ll never quite measure up, leading them to feel isolated and to struggle in silence. To help address this tough stage in life, the Tower Foundation provided funding to bring Eye to Eye, a national organization that’s run by and for those with learning differences, to Western New York.

The arts-based program connects college kids with learning disabilities with middle school kids with learning disabilities. Students from Buffalo State College, Daemen College, Niagara University, and Villa Maria College go through training and meet at local middle schools once a week to share their experiences and connect with their young mentees.

“The program is really not about art, but instead a way to work together on something where there are no grades, no right or wrong, and as an avenue to get kids talking and sharing,” says Stephanie Whitham, Eye to Eye National Program Coordinator. “It can be very affirming for the middle school kids to realize that the older students have gone through similar challenges and that college, among other types of success, is possible.”