GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Kaitlyn Pike has long considered a future in physical education. More recently, those goals have changed, if only slightly.

“I guess I just look at them like we’re all the same. Why can’t I have a friendship with them?” she said of her role as a LINK in school.

This year, she is also part of the peer-to-peer program and unified physical education elective.

Pike said the other kids in the program inspired her to dedicate much of her time to them. She shared an experience on the first day of class this year when she met a freshman in the special education class named Lucas.

“He looked at me and asked what are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m sitting by you. Can I not do that?’ He said, ‘You can, but just know that you’re going to be my best friend.’ Since that day, we’ve been pretty much inseparable,” she said. “He is the sweetest kid I’ve ever met in my life.”

Pike’s involvement in all three programs this year was no surprise to Stacey VanLaan, who teaches life skills and LINKS classes.

“She just rises to that next level and is just an exemplary LINK. I’m really happy to have her in our program and to have her as a part of our students’ lives,” VanLaan said.

They don’t want their LINKS students to have a mentor-mentee relationship or a helper dynamic. They want them to form friendships, which VanLaan saw happen immediately with Pike and the other students.

“(Pike) is around. She finds our students in the hallway. She finds them at lunch, and we see her throughout the day. It means a lot to our students. (They) have grown very attached to her,” said VanLaan.

For Pike, a career in physical education is still on the table, but now she’s thinking about it differently.

“I might want to be an adaptive PE teacher. I think that this is really the world that I want to live in. I want to keep pursuing this because it’s something that has called me,” she said.