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Special education program creates lifelong friendship

HOLLAND, Mich. — High School seniors Dylan Hill and Derek McNitt are very close.

Like all best friends, they give each other advice  about love, laughter and life trials.

"He’s been there for me since I was like young. I used to get bullied, remember?" Hill said to McNitt.

"He said to them like 'stop that, he's autistic,' which I am, I'm autistic, ADHD."

It’s because of those circumstances that Hill and McNitt originally started spending time together.

For seven years, McNitt has been a mentor, or a “LINK,” in the West Ottawa High School LINKS Program that aids students with special needs.

"(In) sixth grade we were friends, we’d say 'hi,' but now we text everyday, and we go to each other for stuff," McNitt said. "He teaches me stuff on the daily too."

As a member of the program, McNitt attends LINKS courses during school to discuss how to better help special education students, though his main priority is time spent with Hill.

"We go to each other for basically everything, he knows a lot about me, almost everything, and I know about the same about him, and we’re just really close," said McNitt.

That closeness has helped Hill cultivate better independence and social behavior, a type of growth that McNitt says he plans to continue encouraging.

"I want to be a special education teacher when I grow up, and a lot of that has come from the LINKS program, from Dylan here," he said.

The LINKS program has certainly changed both of the young men for the better.

When asked if more schools should adopt the program, Hill said, "All schools should, it’s been really quite a blessing for a kid like me."

For more information on West Ottawa High School's LINKS program, click here. 

 

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