It has been an honor to be part of the development of an exciting project that will give my students and others at Key West High School opportunities to access our local community college (Florida Keys Community College). Students with Significant Disabilities often are not offered an opportunity to extend their learning process after aging out of school services at age 22. Through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, there are opportunities that these students never dreamed of!
The first step has been to introduce our youth ages 18-22 to college life during a pilot project called College Thursdays. The team members of the TIES program have visited the FKCC campus each Thursday with the teacher and an employment specialist to explore areas that they are interested in for employment and coursework. During this pilot, we have spent a semester on the campus getting to know the professors, administrative employees, students and experience general college life as a group. This led to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Monroe County School District and Florida Keys Community College to allow continued access, with the development of an application process specific to Project Access. Once this Project is established with data and eligible students have completed a person centered plan along with IEP goals to define their individual areas of interest, the Phase Two will proceed.
Phase two will be completed by the Fall of the 2012-2013 school schedule with a mini grant in place to provide for individual educational mentors for students as they access actual college classes on an individual basis. I will keep this blog updated on how it all develops!
The most exciting thing is that I can “SEE’ the expansion of age appropriate education through out our county. Our geography prevents us from providing the TIES program to the middle and upper keys; TIES is separated from the students who are eligible for the program by up to 120 miles on the one road that connects the islands. The geography and the limited vision of our high school teachers in the middle to upper keys schools are HUGE blocks to youth ages 18-22 who have the ability to be productive, active members of their community.
Our partnership with FKCC will open doors at the campuses located at the middle and upper keys high schools, allowing students more choices then staying in a self contained high school classroom until age 22!
Check out the video that will be presented to the MCSD School Board for approval of our MOU. The FKCC administration is on board and we are not asking for any funding as all funds will be grant awarded and current personnel will be doing all the work.
For more information on Youth with Significant Disabilities and Higher Education
Please let me know if you have more to add to this list!