COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) – “Transition is like falling off a cliff,” South Burlington High School Special Educator Renee Gardner said.
Moving the tassel from right to left is daunting.
Which is why special educators like Renee Gardner have partnered with Champlain Community Services to make sure those with disabilities and their families know exactly where they’ll be once they leave the classroom.
“So we don’t have to fall of that cliff, and also working with ‘how can we make the day we leave high school the same as the day after’,” Gardner said.
CCS’s bridging program starts in the student’s 4th and 5th year of high school to help them become more well rounded by encouraging independent living, advocacy, career exploration and community involvement.
“What are their talents? What are their skills, and how do they want to go into their adulthood?” Champlain Community Services Director of Education and Employment Services Michelle Paya said.
Paya works with the students first-hand as they start their post high school journey – while they’re still in school.
“Having these pre-vocational programs within the school systems, we’re allowed to have those relationships with the families, and that larger support system around the student,” Paya said.
She says the program fills a gap in services by focusing on the role of parents and family during this transition.
“‘What does adulthood look like? What do services look like? I’m scared, can you help me, can you help me narrow it down, can you help me navigate the path that I need to go in order to make sure my child has those opportunities that they deserve?’” Paya said about parent concerns.
Parents can get those answers through CCS’s zoom informational nights.
Something Gardner says they appreciate.
“Families absolutely love the bridging program,” Gardner said. “It’s giving students the opportunity to be all over in the community.”
Paya says programs like this show how much progress has been made towards helping students with disabilities – but says one day she hopes there won’t be a need for them- and people living with disabilities will have similar opportunities already available.
“They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of skills, and they deserve it,” Paya said.
CCS is holding an information session Wednesday night to answer any questions parents might have about the high school transition.
Those looking to register should contact Michelle.
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