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Special School District of St. Louis County

Making a Difference
Mentoring fosters students' friendship

Fitting in at school can be tough for many students. When you look different, it can be even more difficult.

For third-grader Raymundo Utrera, transition to Bierbaum Elementary School in the Mehlville School District was made much easier with the help of Kamryn Perry, a senior at Mehlville High School.

Both students have Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare medical condition in which some bones and tissues in the face aren’t developed.

Kamryn said when he heard that a new student with Treacher Collins would be attending Bierbuam, he knew he wanted to get involved in his life. He went to Bierbaum before Raymundo started school to talk to the other students and educate them about Treacher Collins.

“When I first walked into each class, they were shocked. But by the time I was done they knew I was no different than them. This helped Raymundo a lot because it gave the kids in his class a heads up and taught them to not treat him any less than they would any other classmate,” said Kamryn.

A special friendship was formed. Kamryn regularly tutors Raymundo and they are Special Olympics buddies. When they first met, Raymundo said he thought, “Wow! He looks like me.” He added, “I am happy to know someone else who is similar to me and understands what I go through.”

Raymundo said that Kamryn makes sure he is confident around other people and that Kamryn believes in him. “It feels like Kamryn is my older brother.”

Raymundo’s mother, Arlin Flores said, “Kamryn has helped Raymundo with his self-esteem. He has helped him to understand that he is not the only kid with special needs or challenges. It’s special because he found someone like him.”

Kamryn’s mom, Tori Perry, is also grateful for the friendship and proud that her son has become a mentor. “Kamryn has not met many people in person who have Treacher Collins. It is really special that he cannot only help others, but help someone younger than he is who goes through some of the exact same challenges in life,” said Perry.

Kamryn has faced many surgeries and challenges. His first surgery was when he was just 6 years old.

“He always has a positive attitude,” said Tori Perry. “Each day he amazes us. For every medical challenge he faces, there are life challenges he has to overcome daily. The thing that makes us most proud is how he chooses not to dwell on the challenges he is faced with. He chooses to use the same things that could hinder him to make a difference in this world.”

Kamryn said he has an amazing group of family and friends. “My family supports me by helping me keep my head up, and they guide me by having me look toward the future. My peers have always been there for me too,” he said.

Despite his hearing issues, Kamryn has been very active in the marching band at Mehlville High School. “Band is one of the things that puts your ability and dedication to work,” he said. “I worked really hard and achieved so many goals throughout my journey in marching band over the years.”

After graduating this month, Kamryn is planning to attend St. Louis Community College at Meramec to study special education and math. He participated in the Missouri A+ Scholarship Program, which provides scholarship funds to graduates who complete a combination of tutoring and community service and who meet grade point average and attendance requirements.

“We hope Kamryn is able to use his experiences to relate to families and students that he will encounter,” said Tori Perry, who is excited that her son wants to get a special education teaching degree.

Kamryn said he has really enjoyed tutoring Raymundo as well as other third-graders at Bierbaum. “I always enjoy seeing these kids improve as I tutor them through the year,” he said. “I enjoy working with them because they make me smile, and I like to make them laugh and smile, too.”

Published May 2018

Raymundo Utrera and Kamryn Perry Raymundo Utrera and Kamryn Perry

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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