Although it’s common knowledge that new ideas and new opportunities are key players on the road to success, sometimes “moving forward” requires bringing back ideas and practices from the past – as was the case with a partnership between Shoreline Community College and the Shoreline School District.
Approximately 15 years ago the college had a partnership with the school district to offer an off-campus transition program for young adults (18-21) with intellectual and/or developmental challenges. After completing four years of high school, students had the opportunity to continue taking courses via the High School Transition program that would help them with independent living and vocational skills. One of the classes was held at the college.
Kim Thompson, Director of the Office of Special Services at the college said the original partnership was very informal. “It was basically an agreement for students to use campus facilities to make salsa, which they sold to local restaurants.” Thompson said the idea as informal as it was, provided a great opportunity for the students to grow. “They got normal social experiences here – and it helped them to feel good about themselves…taking a class at the college.”
|The idea to bring back the high school transition program had been brewing for some time. The actual partnership idea between Shoreline and the [Shoreline School] district was actually scribbled on a napkin over coffee. Kim Thompson, Director of the Office of Special Services |
“Without the partnership,” Thompson said, “students would never have gotten the personal growth they experienced while taking classes at the college and being a part of the community – and they get to take the journey together. The ability for the students to not only be on campus to take classes but to interact with college students is a huge bonus for these kids.”
Unfortunately after only two years, the program was closed due to red tape. The memory of its merits did not fade, however, and thanks to a few dedicated people, it was reinstated in 2006.
In 2004, over a cup of coffee at a local market, Thompson shared a conversation with a friend about bringing the transition program back, but this time providing more opportunities such as access to college services and activities.
“What if they had library cards and got to use the computer labs,” she asked Linda Bow, Department Chair of Directed Studies at Shorecrest High School. “And what if they could transition into the CIP (Community Integration Program)?” The two agreed that the new program should be designed to support students becoming as independent as possible. Together, they scribbled a plan on a napkin.
Thompson and Bow were not the only ones to like the idea. Vice President of Academic Affairs, John Backes also wanted the partnership reinstated and was instrumental in making sure that happened. In 2006, it was reinstated for a trial period, and after a successful year, the contract was extended for two more years. The partnership is now in its fourth year.
|Students enrolled in the Shoreline Public School system who have completed high school via an Individualized Education Plan, are eligible for classes designed to provide them with daily living, community access, and vocational skills. |
Today students enrolled in the Community Based Transition Program (new program, new name) no longer go to the high school -- all classes are held at the college – and they have library cards and access to all college events and activities.
“The interaction with college students and ability to use the college facilities like the PUB, library, cafeteria and the gym are equally important to the growth of these kids on the academic side,” Backes said. “We needed to ensure that the students got access to the same services that other students had.”
One of those services, lead instructor, Jennifer Given-Helms said, is the opportunity to eat lunch in the PUB. “Eating their lunches in the PUB provides a natural opportunity for our students to interact with other college students.” So does studying in the library or even waiting at the bus stop.
Students take two classes four days a week, including social skills, banking and budgeting, community resources, yoga, person-centered planning, disability disclosure, pre-vocational skills, meal planning and cooking. Each student takes classes that are most appropriate for their particular needs via individualized education plans. Fridays are committed to excursions which provide additional opportunities for exploration of their communities and time to practice their independent skills such as riding Metro buses.
|Life skills. Job skills. Independence skills. That’s what students in the Community Based Transition Program get. Jennifer Given-Helms|
“The merits of the program are many,” Given-Helms said. “The idea was to prepare the students to be productive, integral and valued members of society in collaboration with families and the community.”
Vocational internships are an important part of the program. During their last year in the program, (because the program is under the school district domain, eligibility ends when students turn 21), students participate in the School to Work program and work one-on-one with an employment specialist who helps them develop job skills and find employment. Currently students choose from 35 businesses to volunteer such as Central Market, the Dale Turner YMCA, Edmonds Boys and Girls Club and Top Foods. The majority of students elect to move into the workforce, taking part-time jobs at one of the locations at which they completed an internship.
Students also get help on basic skills that will help them in their jobs, such as attendance, reliability, customer service, self initiation, and communication with co-workers and supervisors.
“It’s a great plan,” Given-Helms said, explaining that by the time they turn 21 they have experienced up to six different internships. “They basically have six options for employment.”
Marsha Threlkeld, a consultant and trainer with the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment, says the Shoreline program is working extremely well.
“Nationally the average in placing students with intellectual disabilities into employment the time they exit school is about 15 percent. The rate for these students who attend the program at Shoreline Community College is approximately 60 percent, making it four times the national average.”
Approximately one student per year decides to stay at Shoreline and move into the college’s Community Integration Program, which is what Cameron Chapman did. Chapman, who is deaf and has cerebral palsy, said he wanted to enter the program because it would help him get a job. His instructors both agreed as did his mother that he would benefit from additional training before trying to find work.
Chapman comes to campus twice a week to participate in a specialized curriculum designed specifically for students with developmental disabilities and with a focus on job skills.
“Cameron is really happy here,” Program Manager Rosemary Dunne says. “He is getting more independent,” she says, adding that he is learning how to be responsible for a schedule, work in small groups, and to develop relationships with- and interact with the same students on a daily basis. He also gets lots of practice using his ASL skills, a skill he will need in the work force.
It is clear that Chapman wants to be a part of the college community. Dunne says he works hard to adapt and engage with other students. He is active in the ASL Club and attends college events. An interpreter joins him so that he can fully experience the events. He greatly enjoys the annual musical performed by music and drama students.
“Cameron is a friendly, curious guy who likes to engage with people,” Dunne says. Earlier, while he was completing the CBT Program, he worked with the gardening crew at the college, helping to keep the campus clean. He was proud of his work and proud to be a student here. “He knows quite a lot of people on campus – he has a long history here.
“In fact,” Dunne says, “Cameron has helped us grow, too. He has brought good energy to the program and as a result of him being with us, we are all learning sign.”
Although Chapman is no longer in the HIT program, he continues to keep in touch with, and visit the friends he made there. He is one of three who graduated last year. Fourteen are still in the transition program.
Currently 27 students are enrolled in the program; a 300 percent increase from the original nine students. It is still the only program of its kind in the state.
Threlkeld says she frequently highlights the program at regional and national conferences, and on several occasions, invited Given-Helms to co-present, providing details about the SCC program.
“Shoreline’s program is highly regarded, Threlkeld says. “The public perceives the program to be of the highest caliber, in fact a model program across the country.”
Each year the graduating students enjoy a graduation ceremony. “The last two years it’s been on campus,” Backes said. “And they love it!”