Transition Stories and Updates

Below you’ll find stories from The Arc’s School-to-Community Transition Initiative Project Sites. Click on a chapter name in the menu to view articles submitted by that chapter describing what is working for them and be inspired by how they are helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities achieve their school-to-community transition goals.

AHRC - New York City

The AHRC Middle/High School has been on a person centered practice journey for the past six years.   The grant from the Walmart Foundation fueled our capacity to develop and implement a transition process that begins with a group Person Centered Planning process.  Over 50 families of our AHRC Middle/High School students have participated in a series of Person Centered Planning Meetings as the first step in planning for the transition to adulthood.   Groups of between eight and twelve families, their adolescents/young adults, school staff and others in their Circle of Support have attended three group planning sessions.  Circles of Support included grandparents, siblings, staff from agencies that support families and their kids through respite and after school activities, and service coordinators. 

The purpose of the first session is to orient the families to the transition process; begin outlining their hopes and dreams, strengths and challenges; and encourage them to share information, questions or concerns regarding transition.  The second meeting is a mapping session during which specific plans and timelines are generated Facilitators for each session have included school staff as well as AHRC staff from the Department of Individualized Supports, Adult Day Services and Employment and Business Services.  These facilitators work in partnership with the school staff assisting the families in understanding the logistics of transition. The final or summary session is directed by the needs of the group, and follow up planning is done on an individual basis.  

At parent request, the most recent summary session included a panel of former graduates and their families regarding their experiences following graduation.  Hearing from former graduates was extremely beneficial in allaying some of the concerns and fears that families of graduates to come have about the transition from school to adult life.  It was also wonderful to see graduates speak for themselves about all of the new and exciting things they are doing now. 

Group Person Centered Planning has allowed us to see the strength families find in going through this process together.  The group model for person centered planning has also created a strong network of support and information among the parents in the group.  Parents and school staff evaluated the process after each meeting. Through those surveys, we found that parents enjoyed allowing their children to have input in their future plans, and felt the importance of seeing that there is support for their children during this difficult transition. The majority of parents was satisfied with the PCP process, gained more knowledge than they expected about the next steps needed in planning their children’s transition, and gained deeper understanding of the importance of the connections between work done at home and in school. 

For more information, please contact Madelin Rivera at Madelin.rivera@ahrcnyc.org.

Community Support Services

Community Support Services

Since the start of Pathways, Community Support Services (CSS) has had quite a few success stories to share!  We are happy that the workshops we have had, and will continue to have, for the families have been very beneficial.   This program has had great impact on students and their families thanks to the information and trainings we have provided.  So far, we have held workshops pertaining to the IEP process and the parent’s role, Advocacy, Guardianship and SSI & SSDI.  CSS is happy to announce that, due to these workshops, two families have already obtained guardianship and a third is in the process of doing so.  Following our Advocacy workshop last year, families and students participated in a trip to Springfield, the Illinois state capital, to meet with legislators and state representatives to advocate and express their concerns about various issues, including funding.  This was a great way for parents to learn the process and feel empowered at the same time.

Pathways also helped pave the way for Learn to Earn, another transition/employment based program.  For those Pathways students that participated, their learning experience was further enhanced.  Learn to Earn consisted of sixteen weekly classes, which included hands on experience and field trips, giving students a base of knowledge and experiences in preparation for their future employment.  The classes were broken down into four modules:  retail, manufacturing, health & fitness and office.  During each module the students learned about the specific trade pertaining to that particular module.  Upon completion of the module a field trip was organized so that students could see firsthand, based on the module, what the job entailed. 

These trips showed students what it would take to work in that particular field.  Upon completion of all four modules; a ceremony was conducted for the students and they received a  Certificate of Completion for their participation and dedication to the program.  This program offered unique exposure for students to learn about different employment opportunities.  It also added valuable information for the thought process necessary to contemplate where their interests may lie in relation to future employment.

Through this School-to-Community Transition Project, Pathways to Success, we have learned that transition services are in high demand.  These types of services help families work through this phase of transition, which can be overwhelming and even impossible without this assistance.  It has also been beneficial in assisting students plan for their future, to think outside the box about employment and prepare to become independent.  To date, two of the students are employed and three are enrolled in employment services and expect to be employed soon.  This program has impacted students and their families in such a positive way.  It has built self-esteem and opened up avenues that have shown students with intellectual/developmental disabilities, that they too can be successful and be part of the community.  For further information, please contact Julia Corral at jcorral@communitysupportservices.org.

Evansville Arc

The Walmart Foundation and The Arc of the United States’ grant supported School-to-Community Transition Project enabled students to learn the importance of volunteering and giving back to their community, while also learning important job skills vital to exiting high school students. Through a partnership between Evansville ARC and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Cooperation, students from a local special education class participated in this hands-on project last school year. Goals of the program included teaching students about job opportunities, self advocacy, person centered planning, and work preparation through learning about appropriate dress, interviewing, conflict resolution, independent living skills and community opportunities.

Northeast Arc

 Northeast Arc

This Fall Ryan Horrigan, a participant in the Northeast Arc Transition Project and a sophomore at Marblehead High School experienced what it truly meant to be included. Ryan signed up for Cross Country track, for his  second time hoping to catch up  with old friends that he has been running with since his first year at MHS. However, this fall was going to be different. Against the wishes of his mother to accept assistance from a 1:1 coach, Ryan asked to go it alone. Perhaps Ryan just wanted to be one of the guys on the team and rely on himself to grasp the requirements of being part of an elite squad. With all the pressures of what is expected as a team member and the struggle to navigate the social scene that goes along with it, Ryan did remarkably well. Pictured here in his first meet againstPeabodyHigh School, Ryan ran in with one ofPeabody’s top athletes. “I feel great?” commented Ryan at the finish line.  Ryan is one of those guys who just wants to fit in and doesn’t want attention drawn on him unless of course he wins a race. Ryan is well liked by his teammates and participates in all the social events that go along with being a member of the team. He also spends time on Facebook keeping in touch with his friends. It is not unusual for teenagers with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) to want to be part of the crowd instead of identified are someone with Autism. In fact, Ryan has more life experiences than many of his neurotypical peers at MHS. Ryan traveled toCalifornia by himself this summer and took up surfing when he was out there. He is also a down hill skier and sings in the school chorus. Ryan‘s goal in life right now is to finish school and earn a high school diploma. He also wants to hang out with his friends.  He is enrolled in the Academic Skills program at MHS where the focus is on achieving the skills necessary to pass the MCAS and earn a diploma. Ryan is also learning about the importance of having a job. He spent part of last summer working with the Northeast Arcs MRC funded summer jobs program. Ryan spent part of his week at theArtCenter inPeabody working as a jeweler and part of the week at theHeritageTrainingCenter where he tried different jobs. He also spent time with a mentor who helped him to navigate his community and practice his social skills.  “Ryan is a very independent young man who has worked very hard to fit in with his peers” commented Kathy Kelly, Director of Transition Services with the Northeast Arc. “His focus is clearly on being as independent as possible”.

For more information on the Northeast Arc Transition Project, please contact Kathy Kelly at kkelly@ne-arc.org or 978-624-2342.

Seguin Services

Seguin Services, as the lead agency in a major multi-agency collaboration, is excited to be working with five other partners to expand their Building Bridges to the Future project. This innovative project, initiated last year bySeguin, Park Lawn of Oak Lawn and Clearbrook of Arlington Heights addresses the needs of special education high school students as they transition to adult life.  This year, these three agencies have been joined by three additional agencies, including Helping Hand Center of Countryside, Elim Christian Services of Palos Heights, and PACTT Learning Center of Chicago as they seek to reach more students with developmental disabilities and their families with this much needed assistance. 

While special education students are growing up, funding for their education is mandated by law.  But once these students reach 22 years of age their education ends. They face the reality that no such mandate for adult services exists.  To complicate matters, inIllinois, state support for social service agencies is in peril due to a severe budgetary shortfall.  In effect, many students are left without a safety net after they graduate from high school.  Families are faced with the prospect of their loved ones with disabilities languishing at home in an unproductive environment. Matters are further complicated for those parents working in regular jobs outside the home.    

Seguin and its partners saw the distress these families faced in the absence of services available to their children.  In response, Seguin and its partners formed the Building Bridges to the Future project.  This project offers hands-on help to insure successful transition of special education students, age 14 to 25, from high school to adult life.  Transitional Outreach Specialists for the project work with the students and their families from the south, west and northwestern suburban Chicago high schools, helping them to secure financial, medical, and legal resources, and providing coaching and adult services training experiences. Project staff provides assistance to students and families in obtaining Social Security benefits, in becoming Medicaid-eligible, and being placed on the State waiting list for adult services. In addition, PACTT is providing special consultation and training for students with autism who make up about 25% of the project participants.

During the project  over 1,000 students and their families in 20 area high schools. 

The Building Bridges project has received significant anchor funding through The Coleman Foundation, which has made grants to the project in the past two years totaling $370,000. Additional funding has come from private and public sources. Among those funders is The Arc of the United States, which awarded two of its chapter agencies—project partners Seguin and Park Lawn—a sub-grant funded by The Walmart Foundation. Additional funding sources include an anonymous local Foundation, the Westlake Health Foundation, the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park,RiverForestTownship, the Rotary Club of Oak Park & River Forest, the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission, and the Community Chest of Cicero. All these funding sources are essential to ensure this successful and necessary program is available to as many high school students with developmental disabilities and their families as possible. Through the investment of these generous grantors this model project can grow and be replicated by other agencies and schools, offering hope for students with developmental disabilities and their families.  

For more information, please contact Lori Opiela at lopiela@seguinservices.org or 708-222-4834.

STAR, Inc.

STAR Inc Project Ohoto

Two years ago, STAR, Inc. Lighting the Way launched their new Aim for the STAR’s Transition Program thanks to the Walmart Foundation and The Arc of the United States’ grant.  While STAR had been involved in transition for years, the grant enabled the agency to offer post secondary education options as well as a more concentrated focus on employment and independent living.   STAR was able to enter, for the first time, into a partnership with Norwalk Community College.  Students from Aim for the STAR’s completed college classes in computers, photography and TV film and production.  STAR Employment Specialists supported the students during class time and helped facilitate participation in campus life.  Students enrolled in the program also had opportunities to complete volunteer work, to experience internships at a variety of local businesses and to participate fully in the community.  Aim for the STAR’s students were able to identify their career interests and have experiences that moved them along a career path.  Students had a seamless transition from high school to adult services, which is probably one of the most important outcomes of the project.  For more information about STAR, visit www.starinc-lightingtheway.com or contact Linda Snell at lsnell@starinconline.com.

St. Louis Arc

When Sherry Kaminsky heard about the St. Louis Arc’s Neighborhood Experiences Through the Year program, she was determined to enroll her son. “I was absolutely going to get him in,” she says. “Through the Year” is the agency’s School-to-Community Transition Initiative. In it, teens and their support staff find volunteer opportunities and prepare for paid employment. 19 year old Nick blossomed in the program. He now works part-time at a theater and a supermarket. “It’s made him self-sufficient,” says Sherry. “He’s learning what it means to be a member of the community. I see great things ahead for my boy.

For more information on this program, please contact Rhonda Hembree at 314-817-2245 or RHembree@slarc.org.

The Arc Gloucester

The Arc Gloucester

The Arc Gloucester, in collaboration with the Gloucester County Adult Center for Transition (ACT), The Gloucester County Office of Disability and Educational Services, Gloucester County College (GCC), Gloucester County Special Services School District, and the Greater Woodbury Kiwanis, has provided a variety of services and supports with the support of funding through the Walmart Grant.  The past two years have been busy and productive ones for everyone involved with the grant project.  Twenty-eight (28) students are enrolled in the ACT@GCC classes.  The ACT program provides an academic component, focusing on three areas:  math, reading and life skills.   All three components are connected to provide for a comprehensive approach.  For example, students worked on a life skills unit on nutrition, using math and reading skills to count calories and to read nutrition labels.  Guest speakers have shared their personal stories with the students, to include Miss NJ (discussed her platform of breast cancer awareness); US Air Force veteran Sergeant Tom Hastings (discussed his involvement in the US Air Force and his time served in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq).   Students also engage in self reflection activities through journal entries on a variety of topics.  Development of skills in these areas help the student to develop the skills needed to further their education at an institute of higher learning and/or employment.  Three (3) of the ACT students are also enrolled in for credit classes at GCC.  Several students also participate in clubs on the GCC campus, to include Vanguard Open-Mic Night, Japanese Gaming Club and the Animal Advocates club.  With the support of an Arc Gloucester Employment Specialist nineteen (19) individuals are either gainfully employed or are volunteering in the Gloucester County community.  Twenty-seven (27) individuals participated in two semesters of Life Long Learning classes where they engaged in activities that encourage independence and socialization skills.  An Aktion Club, sponsored by the Greater Woodbury Kiwanis and The Arc Gloucester, has been formed with 14 original charter members.  Aktion Club is a community-service group open to adults living with disabilities who want to become community leaders and provide service to others.  The Aktion Club completed their first service project, collecting items for care packages to be sent to members of the armed forces.  They are now focusing their efforts on collecting nonperishable food items to support the Food Bank of Southern New Jersey. 

Now in the third and final year of the current School to Community grant The Arc Gloucester plans to continue to foster and support the work being done by all of the partners in the collaboration in an effort to continue to provide the vital services and supports needed for the young adults transitioning from school to the community.

Please contact Brenda Powell at bpowell@thearcgloucester.org if you would like additional information.

The Arc Greater Twin Cities

The Arc Greater Twin Cities GetSet! for Work program just launched a new e-learning course for parents and professionals.  GetSet!™ for Transition is a self-directed, interactive online course focused on the critical transition years of 14-21 for a child with an intellectual or developmental disability.  Participants will learn why transition planning is important and how to set specific and measurable goals as their child shifts from school to employment, independent living and community life.  The training takes less than an hour. Participants can go back and review the material during and after completing the course.  Visit www.arcgreatertwincities.org or contact Mariannereich@arcgreatertwincities.org.

The Arc Jackson County

The Arc Jackson County’s School-to-Community Transition Program targets “at-risk” students, engaging them year-round. Students engage in meaningful activities improving their quality of life and helping them achieve full community inclusion. When the opportunity arose for Josh and Jamie to participate it was perfect timing! Through the additional support we provided, they successfully moved into their own apartment. The Arc’s Transition Specialist worked with the twins on a regular basis. Because of the trusting relationship developed, when extra supports were needed or they were confused, they felt free to ask for assistance without feeling judged or ridiculed.

 For information go to www.thearcjackson.org.

The Arc in Hawaii

Isaiah De Luz is an 18 year old young man who lives with his family on their cattle ranch in the rural area called Honokaa on the Big Island, Hawaii.

Isaiah graduated from Honoka’a High School last year with his class, but still attends school there as he can until he is 22 years of age.

He was one of the first high school students to sign up for the Walmart Transition Grant and wanted to work on the family ranch. But when an opportunity came up from Mr. Robert Sterling, Manager of Malama Market in Honoka’a, our Arc of Kona staff lobbied for Isaiah to have an opportunity to work as a courtesy clerk and learn “how to work” and get a real pay check for real work. His family agreed that this would be a good start and for Isaiah to learn to take direction and supervision from someone other than teachers and family.

Isaiah has been working three days a week part time now for almost a year. Malama Market allowed staff to come in and help with the training and then fade out, so that Isaiah can work independently.

He loves seeing all his friends and family come into the store in this small town where everyone knows him. His biggest challenge was to keep bagging groceries when someone he knows comes in and keep the socializing to a minimum.

We are proud of Isaiah and grateful to Malama Market for stepping up and giving the opportunity for a real job that can continue for as long as Isaiah wants to be there.

For more information, please contact Becky Tyksinski at beckyt@thearcinhawaii.org

The Arc of Baton Rouge

For the second consecutive year Sam’s Club in Baton Rouge invited our agency to participate in a Career/ Disability Awareness Day. This year seniors from our Tara High School Transition Project were included in the experience. The day began with and orientation of all the jobs Sam’s has available in their stores, then each person was taken on a tour of the store to see each job in action. The walk through even included areas of the store not open to the public, butcher shop, freezers, warehouse storage areas and much more. The day concluded with Sam’s providing lunch and dessert to everyone.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the day and were surprised to see one of their former classmates pictured on the wall as the Employee of the Month. As a result of the day, we have scheduled all of our students to participate in another career day experience just for Tara High after their new location is open in the spring.

 We are continuously engaged in conversation with Sam’s to open job opportunities for our students.  We will send pictures of the upcoming event.

 For more information, please contact Randy Foil at rfoil@arcbatonrouge.org or Mara England at mengland@arcbatonrouge.org.

The Arc of D.C.

Read about how The Arc of D.C. partnered with DCPS high schools to help prepare students with I/DD for employment after graduation.

The Arc of Frederick County

To support transitioning youth students to enroll in college courses, The Arc of Frederick County collaborates with Frederick Community College and Frederick County Public Schools to offer The Leadership Enrichment Achievement Program at Frederick Community College (LEAP at FCC). 

LEAP at FCC is supported by The Arc and Walmart Foundation School-to-Community Transition Project.   Courses are taught by college instructors and supported by traditional college students.  Customized courses are offered in leadership, interviewing, and campus life.   Through project activities, students have enrolled in college courses such as:

  • American Sign Language
  • English
  • Keyboarding
  • Introduction to Excel
  • Photography
  • Microsoft Word
  • Voice Over
  • Biology
  • Social Networking
  • Communication Graphics
  • Spanish
  • Digital Media
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Film as Literature

Highlighted social activities include service learning trips to Philadelphia and Washington D.C.; participating in the Getting Connected Club; and attending the Multi-Cultural Club. 

For more information, contact Aaron Stephens at The Arc of Frederick County at astephens@arcfc.org.

The Arc of Greater New Orleans

Louisiana Green Corps transition members worked with dozens of community partners last year to complete green improvement projects in and around New Orleans. Members worked to salvage tons of reusable metals and lumber products from blighted homes and completed projects with organizations committed to restoring wetlands where members helped cultivate plants and completed tree plantings on barrier islands. Transition Corps member, Kyle Dixon shone in the spotlight working alongside his Transition Crew Leader to complete energy efficient upgrades to nine homes of low income residents. The Corps is looking forward to providing environmental service opportunities to students this summer! 

For more information, please contact Suzanne Mason at lagreencorps@gmail.com.

The Arc of Haywood County 

The Arc of Haywood County University Program (UP) at Western Carolina University

The University Participant (UP) Program at Western Carolina University (WCU) is a fully inclusive college experience where individuals live in dorms, audit classes, complete internships, and participate in extracurricular activities.

Here are a few accomplishments for four participants during year one:

  • Completed internships in clerical work, library, clothing store, daycare, and campus mailroom
  • Audited 69 credit hours relating to career goals in data processing, daycare, education, parks and recreation, special education, and the arts
  • Successfully lived in college dorms with peers serving as natural supports.

For more information, contact Kelly Kelley at kkelley@email.wcu.edu or 828-227-3298.

The Arc of Kent County 

Community Participation Initiative (CPI) connects individuals to activities of their own interest within their community.  Met on an individual basis, participants express their desires and personal preferences. Connections are made in the community to currently existing events and activities rather than segregated programs. Examples of past connections include yoga class, running club, helping with set designs for local plays, and volunteering.

Currently, CPI is gaining momentum in Kent County, especially after our community forum on November 3. We had a great turn out, and are hopeful that those who share in our vision of inclusion will continue to partner with our initiative. Those involved with the ION (Including Our Neighbors) Grant are proving to be wonderful community connections for us. Plans are being made to reach out to transition groups in Kent County schools as well as those receiving CLS services from some provider agencies, in hopes of gaining new participants. We are optimistic about continuing to make connections, and helping individuals engage in activities of their choice.

The Arc of Kentucky

The IAM DETERMINED Transition from School to Community Project hosted twelve Focus Groups throughout Kentucky to identify resources related to transition from high school to community to be included in the Project’s Directory of Transition Services and Resources for Students of the Commonwealth.  The groups were facilitated jointly by local Arc’s, Family Resource Youth Service Centers, Independent Living Centers, Parent Resource Centers, Public Health Departments, school officials and others.

An art contest was held to determine the directory’s cover.  The theme “What Transition Looks Like To Me” illustrates the purpose of the directory which is providing educators, families, and students with valuable information about services and resources after high school. All entries in the contest will be recognized throughout the directory and at The Arc of Kentucky’s Annual Conference in April 2012. 

Training on how to use the Resource Directory and distribution will be done through Kentucky’s Special Education Cooperatives.

The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties

The Arc Los Angeles & Orange Counties, CA’s major goal of the School to Community Transition Project is to provide a model of Seamless Transition.  A Seamless transition occurs when an individual leaves school and is able to obtain services or a job immediately without interruption.  We are pleased to share Richard’s story as one of many who shows us that Seamless Transition can be reality and a success.

Richard was introduced to The Arc during the final year of his High School Transition Program. He was an independent, energetic young man who had no idea what he was going to do when he aged out of the school system. Richard was living with his grandparents who didn’t know what an “adult service system” was, let alone how to navigate it. This was a student who was going to fall through the cracks like so many others have.

Through the School to Community Transition Project our team was able to begin providing assistance to Richard months before he exited the school system. We learned that Richard needed a significant amount of support with social skills, attendance and getting signed up for post-transition services.

A School to Community Transition Plan addressing Richard’s needs was put in place. As a result, Richard exited the school system on a Friday and was welcomed into The Arc’s  Employment Preparation Program the following Monday. His transition was not always easy, but because of this project, it was seamless.

We are proud to share that less than 1 year after leaving high school, Richard obtained his first job. He was hired by a Chevrolet dealership as a Lot Attendant. Richard is in charge of washing cars and assisting mechanics in the service department.  He’s only been on the job for one month but as a result of his excellent performance, he’s already being groomed to advance within his department.

The Arc Los Angeles & Orange Counties knows that there are many more Richards in the school system who need help. While we know that our work is far from over, it’s nice to take a few moments to celebrate his success.

For more information please contact Luana Acuña, Director of High School Transition & Employment Services at The Arc Los Angeles & Orange Counties 562-803-5792 or luana.acuna@yahoo.com.

The Arc of Loudoun

The Arc of Loudoun

Since making its home on the Paxton Campus, The Arc of Loudoun has worked to expand its programming to meet the unmet needs of our community, especially the gap in services for those who are transitioning out of high school and those who are already receiving adult services.  We want adults in Loudoun to have “A Life Like Yours,” so we have held multiple events that are appealing to both those with disabilities and those without, such as holiday parties, adult dances, movies such as “The Avengers,” and bingo—all at no cost to the participants.  Through these outreach events, we have become a valuable resource to many families and caretakers in the area and met many wonderful adults who are thrilled about these safe and fun social opportunities. 

 For those preparing to enter adulthood, we have expanded our school program to include a variety of vocational and community experiences to better prepare them for independent living.  During the past year our students have been able to practice a variety of vocational skills on and off campus while also learning how to navigate the community.  On campus, our students have helped with delivering mail and other administrative tasks, assisted in our campus garden, and worked in our campus clothing store. Off campus, we have students working with a local pizzeria.  Even more exciting, thanks to a grant from The Arc of the US, we are expanding our on-campus vocational opportunities! Our newest phase in the STEP Up program will be coming to fruition in the coming months.  We will have the Grand Opening of our campus store, the “Paxton Attraction”.  The Paxton Attraction will be a store run by our students, and will provide snacks, movie and game rentals and a café/lounge area for staff and students.   Having this store on campus will increase the opportunity for our students to practice a wide variety of vocational skills such as stocking shelves, running a cash register, completing inventory, and preparing small snacks. In addition to vocational training our students are learning to integrate technology in their workplace, navigate public transportation, and shop independently.

 Our outreach has also included collaborating with many existing nonprofit agencies that serve those with disabilities.  For example, a local supported living/employment program comes to the campus twice a week so that its clients may volunteer in our clothing store.   

 We have also created many support groups for those in our community:  We have year round social skills groups, Asperger’s social groups, parent network meetings and we have facilitated groups for families who want to share their stories with other caretakers.  It is an exciting time on the Paxton Campus, where we are helping people with disabilities and their families have “A Life Like Yours!”

Please contact Jennifer Lassiter at 703-777-1939 Extension 104 or via e-mail at jlassiter@paxtoncampus.org.

The Arc of Massachusetts 

STUDENT-DRIVEN IEP MEETINGS USING MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATIONS

The Arc of Massachusetts, as one of the recipients of the School-To-Work Community Transition Project funded by The Arc of the United States and the Walmart Foundation, is partnering with three high schools in the Metro Boston area.

One of the high schools has a unique approach in creating student-driven IEP meetings. This approach focuses on self-determination and self-advocacy. The digital presentations are used not only at IEP meetings but also as visual resumes in job exploration.

Using a combination of  Powerpoint,  digital photos,  video, music and podcasts, young adults in the Needham High School Transition program are creating their own digital presentations to discover, record, express and share their dreams, goals and visions for their own transition path.   Students incorporate multimedia to direct their own futures planning by creating visual resumes, directing person centered plans and preparing presentations for student driven IEP meetings.

The idea to use visual resumes in conjunction with traditional resumes  was developed in response to the difficulties many students experienced through the traditional  job search process.  Enabling young adults with disabilities to express their desires and accomplishments in a universal language has resulted in increased self-determination and self-advocacy-while they once dreaded the IEP meetings, they now look forward to sharing their accomplishments. Feedback from employers, family members, peers and community members has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Arc of Mecklenburg

Doors 2 Life

The Arc of Mecklenburg County, in Charlotte, NC has launched a new website called Doors2Life to assist youth with developmental disabilities in transitioning from high school to college or employment.  Funding for the project came from a school-to-community transition grant through The Arc of the United States. 

Care was taken to make the site accessible through a simplified design and larger font sizes in some sections.  The three portals for students, parents and employers were created because each of these groups play a separate, yet vital role in assisting students with disabilities to achieve success after high school. 

Some of the resources in the student section include resume building, interviewing tips, how to retain a job and a job posting board for job seekers.  Phase II of the website is planned for later this year that will add additional media components to increase the accessibility of the site.   For more information, please contact Lauren Borchert at lauren@arcmeck.org.

The Arc of Minnesota

The Arc Minnesota’s Transition to Community and Employment initiative has successfully provided support, resources and information to three Minnesota regions including collaborations with The Arc Southwest, The Arc Kandiyohi and The Arc United.   All three chapters have worked closely with The Arc Minnesota and numerous State and local collaborators to raise the expectations for competitive employment and community inclusion for students with disabilities.  “The impact of providing new and innovative information to students with disabilities, their parents and their support networks is changing hearts and minds in how they will plan and think about the future,” said Scott Schifsky, Program Director at The Arc Minnesota.     Topics have included Social Security work incentives, e-mentoring with area businesses, Customized Employment, Discovery Processes, housing and many more.   The project in each area is a partnership with local Minnesota Arc chapters, local school districts and many other agencies that provide support to people with disabilities.   For more information, please contact Scott Schifsky at: scotts@arcmn.org or 651-523-0823 Extension 102.

The Arc of Mississippi

 

In 2001 Jessie Arbogast was on a family vacation at Pensacola Beach, Florida.  Like most youngsters he enjoying playing in the shallow water.  Then tragedy struck.  He was attached by a shark, and left with significant disabilities.  After surgery, he began the slow process of recovery.  His speech and his mobility were affected.  In the fall of 2010, Jessie and his mother, Claire, joined a small group of families on the coast of Mississippi - engaged in transition planning, encouraging self-determination, adult life skill development and outcomes (The Arc of MS’s Transition Project: Meaningful Days.) 

In the spring of 2011, with Jessie facing his final year of school, Arc of MS “Customized Employment” Project staff continued the discovery, profiling and planning of the Meaningful Days project. The customized employment process led to a part-time job with Gulf Coast Family Counseling where Jessie’s job is to scan documents as part of their conversion from paper to electronic records.  Special thanks go to Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services for providing on the job supports for Jessie, and especially to Katrina Brooks who supports Jessie on his first job.  The next challenge is to discern whether assistive technology can enable Jessie to perform more components of this job and offer him even more independence.

Jessie’s mom, Claire, says: Jessie has been working for four months now and is very motivated by his job.  He loves the fact that he is making money (He loves to shop.).  He took his Mom and Dad to dinner with his first paycheck.  He was so proud of himself when he paid the bill and left a tip. He has come a long way since his injury 11 years ago. He is truly an inspiration to me and most people who meet him.  We are all so proud of him, but most of all, he is proud of himself.

For more information, please contact Linda McDowell, Ph.D at linda.mcdowell@usm.edu or Mike Montgomery at msarcmike@gmail.com (or by phone at 228-497-1044).

The Arc of Monmouth

The Arc of Monmouth

Keep Achieving (Kach) at Brookdale’s goal is to provide transitioning students the opportunity to participate in a three-year college experience.  Students who become more involved in community experiences typically meet with success when integrating into the world of work.

Kach offered students a non-judgmental classroom environment that allowed each student to work towards performing at their fullest potential.  The phrase: “I can’t do that” became “I can try that”, and then “I can do that”.  In this supportive setting the students became risk takers.

Contact Allan Cohen, Project Coordinator, at 732.493.1919, extension 663, or e-mail acohen@arcofmonmouth.org.

The Arc of Nebraska

The Arc of Nebraska

For years, Nebraskans with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been told they “can’t work,” but little was being done to investigate “why.” Without knowing the reasoning for the statement, little could be done to change this thought process and the endless funneling of students receiving transition services from high school to sheltered workshops. The Arc of Nebraska recognized that someone needed to ask the question so creative solutions could be proposed, community-specific plans could be made, and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would be “connected to” people and organizations so they could work.

Through its Walmart grant, The Arc of Nebraska has partnered closely with The Arc of Omaha to conduct this investigative process in Omaha so that expectations become different and people are working in their community. This has been more successful than we ever would have anticipated!

We recognized the need to connect with organizations and individuals across the state who were interested in creating system-wide change. This was the most fundamental part of the process and the one that will serve to sustain our efforts. We began by using these connections to identify participants  and conduct focus groups in Omaha. We asked what was working and what wasn’t. We also connected with Omaha Public Schools to gain direct access to students receiving transition services so we could ask them about their transition planning experiences.

Once we asked the questions, we compiled the answers and presented them to stakeholders in Omaha. Those stakeholders, including parents, people with disabilities, local school districts, human resources associations, employers, the mayor’s office, the Chamber of Commerce, serviced providers, advocacy organizations, and others are now working on a community plan that will make the difference.

While our original efforts began in Omaha, through our statewide connections and enthusiasm from funders and other local groups across the state, we have been able to begin replicating this process in four other communities with local Arc chapters: The Arc of Platte Valley (North Platte, NE), The Arc of Central (Grand Island, NE), The Arc of Platte County (Columbus, NE), and The Arc of Southwest (McCook, NE).

With community-specific data, real solutions can be created to address local gaps and barriers to employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to recognize and foster successful endeavors. To learn more about specific activities and efforts involved in the project, please contact Marla Fischer-Lempke at marla@arc-nebraska.org.

The Arc of New Mexico 

The project provided training to youth in the areas of (1) employment;   (2) self-advocacy;   (3) healthy hobbies; and (4) community resources.  The project provided opportunities to learn how to operate a  computer,  download pictures, use iPods,  upload videos and basic office skills.  The ability of youth to use technology as part of their development was important not just in skill development but with enhancing individual confidence. The youth were invited to attend  community meetings of the Leadership group . These meetings serve to expand the youths’ connections within the community, as well as afford an opportunity to learn about services available to persons with disabilities. A significant activity was the development of a person centered plan or PATH for each youth.

 The Arc plays an important role in this rural and economically deprived community.  For more information contact Priscilla Salinas by email psalinas@arcnm.org.

The Arc of Northern Virginia 

The Arc of Northern Virginia developed a Transition Series called, “Creating Your Family Mission Plan” (Think:  Mission Impossible!). This structured educational event is designed to empower families as they transition into the next maze of systems. Our 3-part Saturday series provides educational programming in the areas of government benefits, special needs trusts, Medicaid waivers, legal authority, employment, housing, transportation, recreation, social relationships and futures planning. In a separate track implemented through theatrical improvisation and interactive experiences the youth are challenged to explore their current lives, job interests, housing options, transportation, cooking, communication and social outlet needs, and visions for their future. Experts from the region as well as the Commonwealth volunteer their time and energy in support of the families and The Arc.  Our application process is easy and our last Arc/Walmart funded session in Winter 2012 is almost full!

For more information, please contact Jessica Utterback at jutterback@thearcofnova.org or 703-532-3214 Exentsion 111.

The Arc of Northwest Wayne County

Jennifer Siewicki

A diagnosis of CHARGE Syndrome comes with such a multitude of problems that the character of a person with this syndrome is often described as determined and strong. That certainly describes Jennifer.  Pulmonary hypertension -  high pressures in the pulmonary artery - means Jennifer runs out of breath easily.  She uses a 24-hour sub-acute infusion pump which delivers an amazing drug, Remodulin, to help her get through her days. But even with all Jennifer’s challenges she sees herself as a regular person with all the hopes and dreams as anyone else.  She just has to work harder to make it happen.

Please click here to read about Jennifer's journey. Contact Christine Lerchen at arcnw@aol.com if you would like additional information.

The Arc, Oneida-Lewis

The Arc, Oneida-Lewis Chapter recently held its Annual School-to-Work Celebration, which recognizes students for moving up to the next level of transition, at Utica College.  The collaboration with the college was made possible in part through the Walmart Foundation Grant Initiative. The “Life After High School” Program enables students with disabilities to job shadow at the local Walmart, learn independent living skills at an Arc residence, and study on the UC Campus. Says Crystal Hilts, Program Instructor, “Bringing the students to the various community sites is a necessary component to emphasize program outcomes.  We are proud of our first grant year”. 

For further Information contact:

Joanne Donaruma
Director of Employment Services
The Arc Oneida Lewis Chapter
245 Genesee St
Utica, NY 13501
315 272 1617
jadona@thearcolc.org

The Arc of Oregon

The Arc of Oregon

For the past two school years, The Arc Oregon has been assisting students from school districts in Washington County Oregon in their transition from school to employment.  Inspired by Oregon’s Employment First Policy that believes all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities need to pursue employment opportunities as adult citizens, The Arc Oregon with support and collaboration from the Oregon Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, The Arc United States, and the Walmart Foundation have developed a project that provides training based on person-centered planning and the development of additional skills and readiness for transition students to become employees in their community.  The Arc Oregon coordinates a variety of activities throughout the school year in collaboration with schools, vocational rehabilitation services, developmental disability services, students and families.  Working as a catalyst between agencies and families, The Arc Oregon provides input, case management, advocacy, and collaboration throughout the project.

The school year culminates with a Resource Fair open to the public and showcasing the students enrolled in Project Employ.  This year, The Arc Oregon, in partnership with the Washington County Employment First Team, hosted an Employer Awards Luncheon and Employment Resource Fair on May 15th.  It was at this “Celebrating Opportunities” event when everything we had accomplished throughout the second year of the Project Employ School-to-Community Transition Initiative came together.

In addition to the various trainings provided to educators, service agency representatives and families, many Project Employ activities were implemented to develop materials to be showcased at the Employer Luncheon and Resource Fair.  During the Photo Portfolio Party held prior to the resource fair, each student was photographed with props related to jobs identified in their Person Centered Plan.  An Interview Practice Party gave students an opportunity to practice using technology to support the interview process.  Students decorated posters with photos and keywords during a Strengths & Interest Poster Party.  The students put their interview skills into practice again during a Video Resume Party.

Project Employ students greeted more than 150 invited employers and community partners at the luncheon.  Featured speakers included the Governor’s Workforce Policy Advisor; the Oregon Director of Developmental Disability Services; and two state legislators who spoke about the economic and business benefits of employment. Employer excellence awards were presented to Powell’s Books and the Nike Employee Store for their leadership and continued success including individuals with developmental disabilities within their companies.  

Project Employ received positive feedback for the event and we are excited to build upon this model as we look towards year three of the project.  The real measure of success will be real jobs.  We, at The Arc Oregon, are excited to see what happens in the next few weeks and into the next school year! Updates will be posted on PROJECT EMPLOY Facebook profile at www.facebook.com/arcoregon.projectemploy            .

The Arc of Prince George's County

Each Wednesday, 25 enthusiastic teens step out of their classrooms and onto the campus of Prince George’s Community College.  These students with intellectual and developmental disabilities come from four area high schools to participate in The Arc Prince George’s County’s Ready @ 21 program.  The program, funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, meets throughout the academic year.  Sessions emphasize self-advocacy, community living, career readiness, and advanced planning—skills essential to ensuring these young adults a successful transition to life after high school.  “Being on the college campus is a critical component of the class,” says facilitator Melonee Clark, Family Specialist with The Arc Prince George’s County.  “It allows our students to be a part of the college experience. “ 

Along with public speaking ee recent guest was Myra Jacobs, Outside Sales Manager of Chick-fil-A, a company that partners to provide mentoring.  “Chick-fil-A employees learn ‘the core four’ customer service must-haves,” says Ms. Jacobs:  ”Make eye contact, speak enthusiastically, smile, and stay connected.”  Currently, students are working with a template to draft their resumes.  By May, 96 students will have completed the class.  “Their confidence is sky-rocketing,” says Ms. Clark.  “They are learning to speak up for themselves and express their desires for life after high school.”

For more information, please contact Melonee Clark at mclark@thearcofpgc.org or 301-925-7050 Extentsion 307.

The Arc of the Quad Cities Area 

As a young adult entering his senior year, Ben found himself struggling with the fact that soon he would have to be an adult and support himself.  He had agreed with his mother that he would take a cashiering class during the summer.  He began the class with many questions of how was he going to do, would he pass, what if he didn’t?  He came faithfully each session and gradually discovered that he really enjoyed entering items into the register and that he could make change.  He watched the cashiers at local stores and found role playing during his final test very enjoyable.  In the end he was very proud to receive his certificate and was glad that he was successful at being a cashier.  Along the way he made friends, built confidence in himself and now has viable skills for employment.  Welcome to Arcedu.  Arcedu is an opportunity for young adults to take an interest and grow it into skills that will assist them to gain employment.   For more information please contact Pamela Turner at turnerp@arcqca.org.

The Arc of Racine County 

When Katy was asked if STC program participant, Stephanie, could visit her at the barn where she boards and trains her young horse, she was a little hesitant. But after meeting Stephanie and sharing what they have in common – horses – they both look forward to more visits together.

The mentoring experience was arranged so that Stephanie could see how another teen might provide daily care and training for her horse. Stephanie, who is 18 and attending high school, is receiving individual assistance through the Arc of Racine County’s STC Project.

Stephanie has been taking therapeutic riding lessons since she was four years old.  Her love of horses has heightened her interest in exploring career opportunities in animal care. During her visit with Katy, she practiced how to safely handle a young horse by leading him into the barn and assisting with grooming and foot care. She also learned about his daily care needs including feeding, training and stall cleaning. 

The Arc of San Francisco

The Transition Support Program at The Arc San Francisco held their third “Transition Age Youth Dance” in September called” Dance into Fall.”

The dances are held in our beautiful community room which we transform for the evening into a night club atmosphere with disco balls and dim lights. We dance to the smooth beats of our DJ Victor spinning from our sound booth.

We invite and welcome transition age youth from schools and services in our catchment area.

These dances give transition age youth an opportunity to socialize with their peers in a safe community setting.

While the youth are dancing and having fun, their parents are learning and sharing with one another at the Parents of Transition Age Youth support group.

The topics of the past three parent trainings have been Project Search, Employment Options and Mobility Training.

For more information, please contact Jacy Cohen at JCohen@TheArcSF.org or Hannah Yanow at HYanow@TheArcSF.org.

The Arc of Shelby County

Pictured in photo (left to right):  Michael Oglesby, Todd Nelson, Steve Norby, Rebecca Ethridge, and Allen Devore

To help support juniors and senior high school students in the Greater Birmingham Alabama area, The Arc of Shelby County developed the “Employment Preparation Program” to assist in transitioning from school-to-community.

In partnership with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, The Arc of Shelby County offered a program for students focusing on the basic skills needed to become successful employees. This Employment Preparation Program enabled the student to discover what skills he/she already possessed and what jobs he/she was inclined to consider. The program was supported through the School-to-Community Transition Initiative, and it contained three main components: 12 hours of basic instruction, extensive work skills assessments and paid work experience.

Some topics covered included the benefits of working, resume building, interviewing skills, how to get a job, how to keep a job and others. The work skills assessments took place over a three-day period and worked around the student’s schedule while involving the student’s family and his/her interests. Each student had the opportunity to participate in an individualized paid work experience. A job coach was on hand, and The Arc of Shelby County was determined to make the program a positive financial experience for all involved. For more information, please contact The Arc of Shelby County at 205-664-9313, or you can visit their website at www.TheArcofShelby.org

The Arc of Southwest Washington State

The Arc of Southwest Washington State

The Arc of Southwest Washington was a chosen participant in The Arc & Walmart Foundation’s School-to-Community Transition Project. Our emphasis was to support transition students with developing self-advocacy/self-determination skills, to provide information about power of choice, to build a support team directed by the student and to improve the transition “flow” and enhance successful outcomes for each student.  We looked forward to supporting the students to develop a club where they could hone their skills and network with other self-advocates, and to enhance what the teachers and schools were already doing.

 We worked with transition students in three school districts during the two years.  We saw the students once a week the first year, and twice a month the second year.   Classroom activities ranged from resume building, discussions about local government to “Job Skill Bingo”.  The students always looked forward to the activities and proved to gain skills in self advocacy and self-determination.

 During the course of the project, we had two “all district” club meetings. At the first all school club meeting, the students named the club “Empowerment Action Club”. They designed a logo, and t-shirts were made for each student.  There were ice breakers games, guest speakers and lots of pizza!  At the second club meeting, students developed their own “future plan”, presenting their finished plan to the group.  They also played “Self Advocates” Bowl, a computerized game show.  Again, there was lots of fun, and lots of pizza!

The transition students we worked with have gained skills to use in their future endeavors and have made lasting friendships with their peers. We will continue to pursue other opportunities to enhance their lifelong learning and success.

Please contact Kris Krohn at 360-254-1562 Extension 118 or via e-mail at krisk@arcswwa.org.

The Arc of Tennessee 

Just as the seasons change, children grow into young adults. The Arc Tennessee’s Self-Directed IEP (Individual Education Plan) project celebrates this change.

 The Arc US and the Walmart Foundation fund the project that predicts better outcomes in adulthood for students with disabilities. The project is based on Dr. Jim Martin’s SD-IEP Steps. The project is being implemented in one county in each region of the state over three years.

 During the 2010 – 2011 school year, The Arc Tennessee worked with students, families, and educators in Benton County to help students grow into strong self-advocates who led their own IEP team meetings. This year (2011 – 2012) we are working with students, families, and educators in Warren County. In 2012 – 2013 we will partner with Roane County to bring the same experience to students, families, and educators.

 During the first year of the Self-Directed IEP Project, we learned that change is hard for everyone making enrollment more difficult than expected. Nevertheless, enrolled students we began to actively participate in their own IEP team meetings (with assistive technology as needed), educators are talking less during meetings, and family members embrace the changes in their son/daughter. Students understand that it is their meeting and are speaking up for themselves and making decisions that will affect their lives now and in the future.

 This year in Warren County, we have seen eighteen students, their families, and educators come together to learn about what it means to grow into an adult when an IEP is involved – something that has not happened before. The school system has provided a meal and child care for other children in the family during the training sessions.

 As The Arc’s Student-Directed IEP Project progresses, more students will begin to transition into adulthood with better outcomes in the areas of higher learning, employment, independent living, and community participation. The future looks bright indeed.

 Please contact Project Specialists Treva Maitland (tmaitland@thearctn.org) Loria Richardson (lrichardson@thearctn.org) for additional information.

The Arc of Ventura County

The Arc of Ventura County

The Arc of Ventura County, in collaboration with People First of California, has been working to help build a new platform of self-advocacy within Ventura County.  This group is called People First of Ventura County Angels with a Voice (PFVCAV). 

 PFVCAV supports Governor Jerry Brown’s California Budget Proposal to restore the 4.25% funding for Developmental Services and campaigned to support Senator Fran Pavely’s Legislation (SB 1381) to eliminate the “R” word in all California codes and regulations. The group also supports the protection of the Lanterman Act, held a voter registration campaign, and plan on tackling any issues that affect services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled.

 The PFVCAV are also active in local issues that affect their daily lives.  Recently, due to California’s fiscal crisis and the budgetary cuts within the higher education system, Ventura College proposed elimination of the Cognitive Diversity Learning (CDL) courses within their community college network.  Classes for the hearing impaired and blind have already been eliminated.  With the advocacy efforts of the PFVCAV and Steve Turner, Ventura College’s Educational Assistance Instructor, the classes have been saved and a new and improved course curriculum has been established for the upcoming fall semester.  

 These actions by Ventura College helped to raise awareness and led the PFVCAV to take action.  Steve Turner is now serving as the facility advisor for a student union group of individuals with special needs at Ventura College.  This group hopes to be represented at student council and board meetings for continued support of the courses at Ventura College that benefit individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

 For more information, please contact Fred Robinson at frobinson@arcvc.org.

The Arc of Washington State

The Arc of Washington State is very appreciative to both The Arc of the United States and Walmart for funding our school to work activities.  We are very fortunate that in Washington state we have very successful supported employment programs funded by the state division of developmental disabilities and local counties.

We are using some of our Walmart funds to build on our state’s success by funding stipends for high school special education teachers to attend community college classes to earn an employment certificate.  We know that special education teachers are taught how to teach in the classroom.  However little course work is focused on how to find and customize jobs for students transitioning out of high school.  That’s where the Walmart grant funds come in.

 Classes focus on the history of the disability movement, developing and using task analysis, completing a customized employment personal profile, completing a functional assessment of behavior and development of a positive behavior support plan.

Here are some comments from the participants:                                                                                                                                        

  • “The course gave me a more global approach overall in supported employment.”                                                                                                              
  • “I now have a big “toolbox” of resources, skills, and contacts that I can use daily to do my job.”

 Thanks to The Arc and Walmart for helping teachers have new tools to help students with developmental disabilities get jobs.

 For more information, please contact Sue Elliott (Executive Director) at sue@arcwa.org or 888-754-8798.

The Arc of York County 

The Arc of York County’s School-to-Community project provides job placement services to high school juniors and seniors while they gain employment related personal skills in internship settings.  The School District of The City of York has partnered with The Arc to provide work experience, on-the job training and employment related personal skills training.  To date, two of the five students in the program have become employed.   Candy joined the School-to-Community Project as a junior last school year.  She performed well enough during her internship that the employer offered her a permanent position.  Candy leaves school at lunch time each day and travels by public transportation to her job at York College of Pennsylvania.  Chartwell’s is the food service provider at the college and they have hired Candy in a position that she will continue working in after her graduation in June 2012     For more information contact Josh Leik at:  jleik@thearcofyorkcounty.org

WeCAHR 

WeCAHR StC program

In the last year, our advocate involvement impacted the specificity and appropriateness of Individual Education Plans designed by the Special Education Team. This also includes the parent. WeCAHR advocates worked to modify IEP’s to include realistic goals and more meaningful transition plans relative to the life of the participant. Our work has impacted delivery, service retention, service restoration, the recoding and/or identification of service gap and/or delay in services. Through WeCAHR’s involvement, delivery of service is clarified becoming more specific to the need of the individual. Advocates work with participants to complete the application process for restoration of prior services and to have a DDS budget assigned along with direct care management for life long services.

For more information, please contact Shirley Ricart at sricart@wecahr.org.