Connecting adults with intellectual disabilities with mentors

Rachel Morris, left, helps Pathways student Alexis Smith with math using dominoes. The two were paired earlier this year through Pathways’ mentorship program.

Alexis Smith draws the double-six domino from the box in front of her and tries to sneak it back. "No, no," laughs her mentor, Rachel Morris, as Smith’s face breaks into a wide smile. She has been caught. "You can do this."

Smith slowly counts the dots on each side of the line dividing the game piece, then counts all the dots, eventually writing "6 + 6 = 12."

Smith is a student at Pathways, a nonprofit program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Besides math, Morris helps Smith work on reading and other life skills. Pathways Executive Director Monique Scraper says her team’s goal is to find mentors like Morris for each of Pathways’ 55 students.

Providing students with continued education is one of four pillars at Pathways, which is a Christian program. The pillars also include encouraging students to grow in their faith and engage in community service, and promoting an active lifestyle. This year, the organization saw an opportunity to recruit mentors for its students. "One of our goals is to retain what our students learned from many years of school," Scraper says. "It’s important to practice those skills; otherwise, they could lose them."

Morris is a college student who plans to become a special education teacher, but Scraper says mentors can be anyone who wants to help the students at Pathways. Mentors are asked to make a yearlong commitment to spend one hour per week with their mentee.

"The commitment is a bigger one, but the payoff is so great," Scraper says. "Seeing the special bond several pairs are already building, we have big dreams for every student to experience that." 

For more information about becoming a Pathways mentor, call 918-859-0060.


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