Elizabeth Kurkowski has a passion for mentoring kids with autism. Her desire to help them develop is so strong that she's spent the last three years volunteering in a mentoring program, BRIDGES, for autistic students at Royal Oak High School.
"It's been completely life-changing," said Kurkowski, 16, of Clawson.
In October, Kurkowski will host the Teens Need Teens (TNT) Race to raise money for BRIDGES and PEER LINK, a similar mentoring program in Clawson Schools. The event will include a 5K race through Clawson neighborhoods and a one mile race for youth at City Park.
Kurkowski is hoping to register at least 400 people for the race. She said registration will be $25 for adults and $10 for children.
With help from Clawson Mayor Penny Luebs, Kurkowski said she is working to create fliers, order T-Shirts and create an online registration form for the event.
"I like the idea of helping where I go to school and helping where I live," Kurkowski said.
There is a great need for fundraisers like the TNT Race because PEER LINK hosts a lot of additional activities and field trips, said Marcia Young, director of special education for Clawson Schools. PEER LINK is part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program in the district, Young said. But teachers and students often host fundraisers for extra money.
"(Fundraising) really enhances the basic curriculum elective program, which is great," Young said. "It can be very costly because you can't just purchase T-shirts when the district has books to purchase."
In both school districts, general education students can take BRIDGES and PEER LINK as an elective course. General education students work with the autistic students on activities that help them develop social skills.
"Even though you are helping (autistic kids), in the end they help you so much more," Kurkowski said.
If you are interested in participating in the TNT Race, contact Kurkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.