Community Inclusion TIESWhat is TIES?

Together Including Every Student (TIES), developed in 1997 by two parents of children who have disabilities, promotes the participation of students and young adults who have developmental disabilities in inclusive, organized extracurricular and community activities through the support of trained student volunteers.

Participants who have developmental disabilities join activities where they can develop recreational interests, learn about their community, and have fun with peers.

Peer volunteers learn how to support participants according to their individual needs, gain more understanding of disabilities and diversity, and make a positive difference in a peer’s life.

Activity leaders create an experience where all individuals and talents are included, and promote community awareness and inclusion.

How does TIES work?

TIES is currently in place in more than 30 school districts throughout the Western, Central, and Finger Lakes regions of New York. To see whether TIES is in your school district, click here.

TIES Coordinators work closely with the school districts to identify eligible participants, recruit and train peer volunteers, communicate with activity leaders, and make necessary arrangements for each activity.

Activities can be –

  • A single event, such as a school dance or after-school football game.
  • An ongoing class, such as cooking, dance, martial arts, music, or gymnastics.
  • Ongoing participation in a community organization, such as Scouts.
  • A Drumming Circle.

Participants are children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 21 who have developmental disabilities. Individuals receive an application from the TIES Coordinator that asks about interests and what support is needed to be successful. Support is individualized and can be in physical, social/behavioral, or language areas. Participants list the activities they would like to join or request information about desired activities. The Coordinator discusses the chosen activities and needed support with the participant and/or parents. An individualized plan is developed that guides the peer volunteer’s support. The Coordinator also communicates with the activity leader to introduce the TIES program and assess what individual accommodations may be needed.

Participant FAQ

nick and dWhat does an activity look like?

It can be any organized recreational or extracurricular school activity in which students typically take part. TIES arranges a trained student partner for each participant to facilitate a successful experience for all members of the group.

How long is each activity?

An activity may be one event, such as attending a school dance or after school football game, or an ongoing class (dance, martial arts, music, gymnastics) or continuing participation in a community organization such as Scouts.  If an activity is ongoing, two or more peer volunteers may share the commitment.

What restrictions are there to joining an activity?

Any activity that is organized and has an adult activity leader is available to the TIES program. Modifications, as needed, are arranged on an individual basis through the collaboration of the TIES Coordinator, the activity leader, parents, teachers, and other interested parties.

Who pays the activity fees?

The participant pays whatever fees, if any, are required by the activity of choice.

Is one peer volunteer assigned to one participant?

Peer volunteers make a commitment for one activity at a time and each activity is arranged as a separate project. For long-term activities, two or more peer volunteers may take part. Some partnerships endure from year to year, while others may change with each activity. Individual input and choice is a dynamic element of the program for both peer volunteers and participants.

As a participant what kind of support will I receive?

Your partner will provide whatever support will make the activity successful and enjoyable for you. It may be as general as keeping you company in a new activity, or it may be specific physical, verbal or social support (see Volunteer FAQs, What will I be doing? for sample strategies).

ties pic web sizeDoes the school provide transportation for me?

The school district does not provide transportation, and the TIES Coordinator is not allowed to transport participants. Parents are responsible for transporting their child to and from an activity.

What if I do not like the peer volunteer?

The TIES Coordinator aspires to match peer volunteers with participants based on common interest, age, and gender. Both parties complete similar applications on which they list their interests, hobbies, or activities they are currently involved in, or have been involved in before. From this information, the TIES Coordinator proceeds to make arrangements. The program is designed to be individual and flexible. If at any time either the participant or peer volunteer feels that he or she was not correctly matched, the Coordinator will gladly find another partner.

Can the peer volunteer spend time with me in my home?

TIES only provides peer volunteers for school- or community-sponsored activities that are run by an activity leader. If a participant and peer volunteer choose to spend time together outside of this type of activity that is their decision and not part of the TIES Program.

Peer volunteers are students within the school district in grades 8 to 12 who want to share their extracurricular interests and make it possible for the participant to experience the learning and fun that’s part of the activity! After completing an application form and a training program, volunteers are paired with participants based on mutual interests, personal attributes, and availability. The Coordinator develops and explains the participant’s support plan and provides ongoing assistance.

Peer Volunteer FAQ

Community Inclusion TIES peer volunteersWhat will I be doing as a volunteer?

You will be providing support to a young person with a disability in a community recreational activity.  The individualized support plan that the TIES Coordinator gives to you will contain, in detail, the strategies that you will use to help your participant partner enjoy success in the activity and make friends with other members of the group.  Here are some examples of strategies – 

  • Cue the participant to say, “Hi!” to other members of the group.
  • Model turn-taking for the participant.
  • Break instructions down into short sentences.
  • Use conversation starters.
  • Move the participant’s wheelchair close to other members of the group.

What does an activity look like?

It can be any organized recreational or extracurricular school activity in which students typically take part.

How long is each activity?

An activity may be a single event, such as attending a school dance or after school football game, or an ongoing class (dance, martial arts, music, gymnastics) or continuous participation in a traditional organization, such as Scouts.  If an activity is ongoing, two or more peer volunteers may share the commitment.

Is one peer volunteer assigned to one participant?

Peer volunteers make a commitment for one activity at a time, and each activity is arranged as a separate project. For long-term activities, two or more peer volunteers may take part. Some partnerships endure from year to year, while others may change with each activity. Individual input and choice is a dynamic element of the program for both peer volunteers and participants.

What if I do not like the participant?

The TIES Coordinator aspires to match peer volunteers with participants based on common interest, age, and gender. Both parties complete similar applications on which they list their interests, hobbies, or activities they are currently involved in or have been involved in before. From this information, the TIES Coordinator proceeds to make arrangements. The program is designed to be individual and flexible. If at any time either the participant or peer volunteer feels that he or she was not correctly matched, the Coordinator will gladly find another partner.

Do I need to travel to and from the activity with the participant?

No. You and the participant are responsible for getting to and from the activity on your own.

Do I have to pay for the activity?

No. Your fee will be waived or covered by another source. You will need to register for the activity with the activity leader, however, so that you are covered by insurance.

Do I stay with the same participant from one activity that they choose to the next?

Once you and your participant have completed an activity, you may tell the TIES Coordinator whether you would like to continue in another activity, but it is not required.

What if I need to stop doing the activity because of another commitment?

When you have a change in your schedule, let your TIES Coordinator know so that she can find another peer volunteer. The program is flexible to accommodate the needs of student volunteers to participate in other activities along with TIES.

Can I do something with my participant partner outside of the TIES activity?

You are free to make arrangements to meet with your TIES participant outside of the TIES activity. The TIES Coordinator and the school district are not involved in or responsible for activities other than the TIES activity.

How do I begin?

Please complete the Application for Peer Volunteers [insert link to pdf] and follow the instructions on the application. Individuals whose applications are approved must attend a TIES training workshop prior to being matched with a participant.

What is the training workshop?

The peer volunteer training workshop is designed to extend awareness of inclusion, diversity, and language of respect.  It is integral to the program as a valuable tool for both volunteers and activity leaders, and can be adapted to a wide array of audiences. 

The workshop is 45 minutes long to accommodate school period schedules and covers the following areas – 

  • Definition of developmental disability.
  • How diversity enriches our lives and community.
  • The critical role of friendship in a person’s social and emotional growth.
  • Examples of support and modifications that the individual may need.
  • Person first language.
  • The skills and attributes of an effective peer volunteer.
  • The role and responsibilities of the peer volunteer.

The emphasis is on creating a relationship of mutual respect in which the specific goal is successful participation of each individual in a group activity.  Friendship, which cannot be mandated or created at will, may arise from this opportunity but is not a specific goal for the partner team.

Activity leaders have the opportunity to include youth and young adults who have developmental disabilities into their group. A peer volunteer attends the activity with each TIES participant to provide necessary support. The Coordinator shares the participant’s needs with the activity leader and provides resources as necessary.

Activity Leader FAQ

ties track editWhat kind of support will the participant receive?

A trained TIES volunteer will provide support to a young person who has a disability in a community recreational activity, according to the individualized support plan developed by the TIES Coordinator. The peer volunteer will have strategies to help his or her participant partner enjoy success in the activity, and make friends with other members of the group.  Here are some examples of strategies –

  • Cue the participant to say, “Hi!” to other members of the group.
  • Model turn-taking for the participant.
  • Break instructions down into short sentences.
  • Use conversation starters.
  • Move the participant’s wheelchair close to other members of the group.

Is one peer volunteer assigned to one participant?

Peer volunteers make a commitment for one activity at a time, and each activity is arranged as a separate project. For long-term activities, two or more peer volunteers may take part. Individual input and choice is a dynamic element of the program for both peer volunteers and participants.

What are my responsibilities toward the TIES volunteers?

They are the same as toward any member of your group. The TIES volunteer is there to provide specific individual support for his or her partner so that you can lead the group as a whole. With younger participants, the TIES volunteer, who may be older than the other students, may assume a role of general assistant, being naturally available to all the children. TIES volunteers can enrich the group as a whole by bringing a new experience to all.

What modifications will need to be made to this activity?

Modifications, if needed, are arranged on an individual basis through collaboration of the TIES Coordinator, the activity leader, parents, teachers, and other interested parties.

What is the role of the TIES Coordinator?

The TIES Coordinator is selected by the school district and is ideally the parent of a child who has a disability. The Coordinator is responsible for –

  • Marketing TIES in the school and community.
  • Recruiting participants and peer volunteers.
  • Training peer volunteers and activity leaders through the training workshop.
  • Developing a support plan for each participant and sharing it with the peer volunteer.
  • Evaluating the experiences of the participants, peer volunteers and activity leaders.

What is the training workshop?

The training workshop is designed to extend awareness of inclusion, diversity and language of respect.  It is integral to the program as a valuable tool for both peer volunteers and activity leaders, and can be adapted to a wide array of audiences. 

The workshop is 45 minutes long to accommodate school period schedules, and covers the following areas – 

  • Definition of developmental disability.
  • How diversity enriches our lives and community.
  • The critical role of friendship in a person’s social and emotional growth.
  • Examples of support and modifications that the individual may need.
  • Person first language.
  • The skills and attributes of an effective peer volunteer.
  • The role and responsibilities of the peer volunteer.

The emphasis is on creating a relationship of mutual respect with the specific goal of successful participation of each individual in a group activity. Friendship, which cannot be mandated or created at will, may arise from this opportunity but is not a specific goal for the partner team.

How do you get started?  

Please read the FAQ to learn more about the program. Next, contact the TIES coordinator for your district to be partnered with a peer volunteer, or to sign up to become a peer volunteer.

TIES Coordinators and School Districts

Kathy Costello – TIES Program Director - (585) 546-1700 - kcostello@starbridgeinc.org

School District TIES Coordinator District mailing address
Amherst

Alana Chazen

alana830@gmail.com

Amherst School District
55 Kings Highway
Amherst, NY  14226
Attica

Debra Best

doublednk@hotmail.com

Attica Central School District
3338 East Main Street
Attica, NY 14011
Avon

Barbara McCormick

bmccormick@avoncsd.org

Avon Central School District
191 Clinton Street
Avon, NY  14414
Brighton

Karen McGraw

karen_mcgraw@bcsd.org

Brighton Central School District
2035 Monroe Avenue
Rochester, NY  14618
Brockport

 Katherine Manchester

Katherine.e.manchester@gmail.com

Brockport Central School District
40 Allen Street
Brockport, NY  14420
Cattaraugus-Little Valley

Sheryl Williams

swilliams@cattlv.wnyric.org

Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District
25 N. Franklin Street
Cattaraugus, NY  14719
Corning-Painted Post

Robin Drury

rdrury@stny.rr.com

Corning-Painted Post School District
165 Charles St.
Painted Post, NY  14870
Dunkirk City

Diane Gifford

Dmgiff108@hotmail.com

Dunkirk City School District
Boorady Center-Special Ed. Office
90 East 4th Street
Dunkirk, NY 14048
East Irondequoit

Karen Speciale

Karen_speciale@eastiron.monroe.edu

East Irondequoit Central School District
600 Pardee Rd.
Rochester, NY  14609

East Rochester

Laura Connard

laura_connard@er.monroe.edu

East Rochester Union Free School District
200 Woodbine Avenue
East Rochester, NY  14445
Elmira   Elmira City School District
951 Hoffman Street
Elmira, NY  14905
Fairport

Amanda M. Dutko

tiesprogramfairport@outlook.com

Fairport Central School District
38 West Church Street
Fairport, NY  14450

Gananda

 

Julie Neal

djn4boys@gmail.com

Gananda Central School District
1500 Dayspring Ridge
Walworth, NY 14568
Gates Chili

Dee Staley

gateschili.ties@gmail.com

Gates Chili School District
3 Spartan Way
Rochester, NY 14624
Geneseo

Darlene Hunt

darlenehunt@geneseocsd.org

Geneseo Central School District
4050 Avon Road
Geneseo, NY  14454
Greece

Colleen Gates

ColleenGates@msn.com

Greece Central School District
750 Maiden Lane
Rochester NY 14615
Hamburg

Tiffany Ilkiwyskj

TIlkiwskyj@starbridgeinc.org

Hamburg Central School District
5305 Abbott Road
Hamburg, NY 14075

Hilton

 Katherine Manchester

Katherine.e.manchester@gmail.com

Hilton Central School District
225 West Avenue
Hilton, NY 14468
Honeoye

Kari Simmons

karisimmons63@gmail.com 

Honeoye Central School District
8528 Main Street
Honeoye, NY 14471
Honeoye Falls-Lima

Tracie Mustardo

traciemustardo.hflties@gmail.com

Honeoye Falls - Lima Central School District
20 Church Street
Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Hornell

 

 

Hornell City School District
134 Seneca  Street
Hornell, NY 14843

Horseheads   Horseheads Central School District
One Raider Lane
Horseheads, NY 14845
LeRoy

Kelly Betters

kbetters@2ki.net

LeRoy Central School District
2-6 Trigon Park
LeRoy, NY 14482
Livonia

Marie Lynn Sweet

msweet@livoniacsd.org

Livonia Central School District
P.O. Box E
Livonia, NY 14487
Newark

Tracy Larson

testing@drtracylarson.com

Newark Central School District
100 East Miller Street
Newark, NY 14513
North Tonawanda

KasieLynn Schultz

casekm66@hotmail.com
North Tonawanda City Schools
175 Humphrey St.
North Tonawanda, NY 14120
Palmyra-Macedon

Renee Herrmann

Renee.Herrmann@palmaccsd.org

Palmyra Macedon Central School District
151 Hyde Parkway
Palmyra, NY 14522
Penfield

Shannon McGregor

tiesprogrampenfield@outlook.com

Penfield Central School District
2590 Atlantic Ave
Rochester, NY 14625
Pioneer

Ayisha Wells

ayishawells@gmail.com 

Pioneer Central School District
Special Education, PO Box 9
Arcade, NY 14009
Pittsford

Dale Cameron-Kody

dale_cameron-kody@pittsford.monroe.edu

Pittsford Central School District
75 Barker Rd
Pittsford, NY 14534
Rochester

Tawana Levert

ttlevert38@yahoo.com

Rochester City School District
690 St. Paul Street
Rochester, NY 14605
Rush-Henrietta

Elena Camerieri

erlmv@rochester.rr.com

Rush-Henrietta School District
150 Telephone Road 
West Henrietta, NY 14586 
Starpoint

KasieLynn Schultz

casekm66@hotmail.com

Starpoint
4363 Mapleton Road
Lockport, NY 14094

SUNY Geneseo

Victoria Starr

ves5@geneseo.edu

SUNY Geneseo
1 College Circle
Geneseo, NY 14454
Watkins Glen

Nancy St. Julien

stjulienn@aol.com

Watkins Glen
301 12th Street
Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Wayne Central

Laura Marchegiano

lmarchegiano@yahoo.com

Wayne Central School District
6200 Ontario Center Road
Ontario Center, NY  14520
Webster

Jennifer Russo

jlr.ties1@gmail.com

Webster Central School District
119 South Avenue
Webster, NY 14580
West Irondequoit

Michael Black

michael_black@westiron.monroe.edu

Craig Jones

craig_jones@westiron.monroe.edu

West Irondequoit Central School District
321 List Ave
Rochester, NY 14617
Williamsville

Julieann Nurse

mjnurse@roadrunner.com

Williamsville Central School District
105 Casey Road
East Amherst, NY 14051

If your school district isn’t listed, what can you do?

Please contact Kathy Costello, TIES Program Director, at 585-546-1700 or 800-650-4967 (toll free in NYS) or email kcostello@starbridgeinc.org.

If you would like to see TIES implemented in your district, an essential step is to consider the financial, administrative, and staff support available, as well as existing resources that may complement TIES. Funding for TIES can be obtained through a variety of avenues. Be creative in exploring local school district, community, and statewide funding opportunities, including your local office of the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The successful implementation of TIES is a joint effort among the TIES Program Director, school district administrator, and the community.

Starting TIES in Your School District FAQ

How is TIES funded?

TIES was originally funded by a grant from the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council as a one-year, Field-Initiated Idea. After a successful year of development and implementation, our school districts assumed the cost of TIES. Other school districts in our area became aware of TIES and requested support in starting the program in their school districts. We sought funding from Family Support Services, a component of OPWDD (Office for People With Developmental Disabilities), to provide funding for one year of training to new school districts. After the initial year of funding, each school district commits to continued funding after the grant period.

What is the cost of TIES?

The District Coordinator’s salary is based on 13 hours per week for 36 weeks. This salary is paid through our existing grant for the initial year of implementation, and then the school district assumes responsibility. We allow a budget for supplies and expenses, such as brochures, posters, transparencies for volunteer training program, letterhead, postage, and printer cartridges.

What is the role of the TIES District Coordinator?

The TIES District Coordinator is selected by the school district and is ideally the parent of a child with a disability. The Coordinator is responsible for –

  • Marketing TIES in the school and community.
  • Recruiting participants and peer volunteers.
  • Training peer volunteers and activity leaders.
  • Developing support plans for each participant and sharing them with the volunteer.
  • Evaluating the participant’s, volunteer’s and activity leader’s experiences.

What does the TIES Program Package include?

There are three component parts to the TIES Program Package that provide the basic tools to implement the program –

  1. The TIES program manual is meant to explain the program design, provide structure for implementation, and detail the essential ingredients for success.
  2. The TIES training workshop is a PowerPoint presentation for peer volunteers and other interested audiences.
  3. The TIES video shows TIES participants and peer volunteers engaged in an array of activities, and presents the perspective of volunteer, participant, and parent.

Please contact Kathy Costello by phone at 585-546-1700 or email kcostello@starbridgeinc.org to discuss the TIES package further.

How do I persuade my school district and community to implement a TIES program in my community?

TIES was developed and implemented by two parents who each had a child with a developmental disability. They knew from firsthand experience the interest their children had in joining recreational activities, as well as the difficulty they had in getting the modifications and support they needed to be successful. Although it was their children’s right to fully participate in school and community activities, several obstacles kept them from being able to do so. A lack of knowledge, experience, and effective support was preventing their success.

Parents are often in the best position to advocate for TIES, since the opportunity it provides to their children means the most to them. An initial meeting with the school district’s Director of Special Education to share the concept of TIES, and to elicit his or her feedback and experience, is an important beginning. Frequently, we find that these individuals recognize the need for inclusive recreation and are enthused about exploring approaches to meet this need. You may want to form a group of parents, school district members, and community members to identify approaches that would be effective in your community. It is always critical to include key decision-makers at the outset who can assist with planning, funding options and implementation.

How does Starbridge market TIES to school districts?

Since our existing grant runs from January 1 – December 31, in September of each year we send a letter and brochure to each school district in the county that our grant covers. In this letter, we describe the TIES program, and encourage contact with the Pupil Services Director/Special Education Chairperson in order to set up a meeting with the TIES Director to more fully describe TIES. The TIES Director asks for a commitment from the school district stating that – after the initial year of funding – the school district will continue the program.

TIES is a program of Starbridge, and is funded by the Finger Lakes Developmental Disabilities Regional Office and the Western NY Developmental Disabilities Regional Office.