In 2005 I had the honor or being selected as the teacher of a grant funded program in Monroe County. This is a program that serves Transition age students, 18-22 who have completed 4 years of high school and are eligible for a special diploma in the State of Florida. The federal law entitles them to school based services until age 22.
Parents were the driving force of this program being implemented in Monroe County. A third party agreement between Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)and a Memorandum of Understanding between Monroe County Schools (MCSD)and NAS Key West, allowed us to open our doors in an off campus setting.
Currently we have a job coach employed in program, who networks with the community to find locations where students can learn and practice all the skills needed to become a employable. These Community Based Work Experiences are volunteer at first, designed to offer a variety of explorations into areas of individual interest, leading them to competitive employment upon leaving the program at age 22.
A partnership was developed with Florida Keys Community College to provide one day per week on campus for all TIES students; College Thursday. College Thursday provides a full day (8 am-2pm) of supported independence, with arrival on campus via the city bus, attendance in a non credit recreational class and an internship session with a mentor or college staff. Students each lunch on campus at the campus cafe with fellow college students, socialize and interact within the academic culture. Students who develop and interest in attending college are assisted with the application for Project ACCESS– a supported educational program at FKCC, giving them a pathway to becoming an independent young adult after age 18. The TIES program will continue to monitor a Project ACCESS student, providing assistance to acquire independent life skills needed to be successful college student; transportation, budgeting, time management, self advocacy and use of educational technology.
There is an application process and criteria for being accepted into the TIES program. Students are referred by their teachers, counselors and staffing specialist at Key West High School. Instruction and learning may or may not be completed in a traditional classroom setting, we like to think beyond walls and use the entire island community of Key West as our classroom!
Young people who are diagnosed with Intellectual Disabilities have a variety of needs, levels of independence and life long goals. We work with the young person and their families to determine the best path for Transition with maximum independence while ensuring safety.
We address the Post School Adult Living goals of :
Where will you live?
Where will you work?
Where will you play?
How will you get there?
After these key questions are answered, the TIES staff moves forward to offer all opportunities to learn the skills needed to achieve the desired outcome of the TIES team member, with a high level of family involvement.
In the past 11 years we have witnessed students become gainfully employed, retain their jobs, utilize the public transportation system safely, get a driver’s license, purchase and maintain a car or scooter, live semi independently in supported living, join community clubs, learn new sports, attend and graduate from community college with workforce certificates and sustain friendships with people who are not paid to be with them.
My goal as the teacher, from the inception of this program, is to give all my students the tools they will need to lead a meaningful and quality adult lifestyle in our community, along with providing support to families who are struggling with the post high school plans for their student. My dream is for my students to have friends, be able to make choices and execute them, have the freedom to be an individual rather then be confined to a group home, sheltered workshop and group community leisure activities, provided by an agency that depends upon government funds as billable services.
At times my blog posts will be reflections on the young people and their learning processes, new things I learn about teaching real life, tools that help me and how my personal growth as an educator affect my life, realizations about myself and my learning process as a result of the relationships I have with my students.
As I near retirement, I will be using this blog to process, reflect and come to terms with the end of my career as a first generation special educator.
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