Transitions Program gives students with significant disabilities skills and confidence

Transitions student Sabrina Wilsdon poses with a photo with director Jennifer Gero
Randy Barber

Like many students, Sabrina Wilsdon is filled with anticipation as graduation quickly approaches.

“I am really excited to be graduating,” said Wilsdon, with a big smile. “I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited because it is a new chapter of my life.”

She is taking a big leap. This fall, she will be leaving the comfort of home and the support of her parents to attend an office skills program at the University of Eastern New Mexico, Roswell.

“I am living in an apartment with another roommate,” Wilsdon said. “I will have to get up in the morning, feed myself. They have a meal plan, but if I want a snack, I’ll have to go to the store and get a snack and shampoo and stuff that everybody needs when they are living on their own.”

While many graduating seniors struggle with this terrifying moment, it is especially remarkable for Sabrina who is a student with cognitive disabilities. Before finishing high school, it wasn’t clear whether she would be able to live on her own or go to college like many of her peers.

“I didn’t know that it was going to happen,” Wilsdon said.

After finishing her high school credits at Fairview High School, Sabrina enrolled in BVSD’s Transition Program. The program provides a bridge for 18 to 21-year-old students with significant disabilities to build the skills and confidence needed to not only survive but to succeed in what Sabrina calls “the real world.”

(Transitions Center on Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder)

“I was scared at first. Leaving Fairview and coming here,” Wilsdon said. “It is not like high school where you have your parents helping you a lot. I was freaking out because it was more like the real world of working. You are doing it on your own.”

“We are the program that links what happens in high school, and services for students with more significant disabilities, to being ready to make it out in the adult world,” said BVSD Transitions Specialist Jennifer Gero. “That can look really different from finding a job, learning to ride the bus, to learning to take care of your personal needs”

“Being young adult can be messy, but you have someone to guide you through stuff. You can get through anything. They make the transition to being an adult easier,” Wilsdon added.

At Transitions, each student receives individualized support, tailored to fit their specific needs. Success is also measured differently from student-to-student, as demonstrated in the 12 students who are graduating from the program this Spring.

 

(Sabrina Wilsdon at the Transitions Center working on her clerical skills)
 

For some students, job placements will result in long-term jobs. Some will continue to receive support through Imagine!, Colorado’s support network for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Just like any high school, you see kids going off everywhere,” Gero said. “One is going to go on to a supported college situation, a handful have independent paid jobs, some are going to jobs where they are going to have a job coach yet– because they’re not ready for that yet, some are moving to volunteer. Some, where work just wasn’t the way that their world pans out – there are adult programs that support more rec/leisure, continued learning of basic skills and they’re moving on to that.”

The goal for every student is ensuring that when they leave the Transitions Program that they have something that they can do that makes them a productive member of our society.

Much of the focus at Transitions is working with local companies to place students in workplaces. Wilsdon, had the opportunity to work at several BVSD schools, the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder, and a dentist office. Along the way, she found out that she really enjoyed clerical work.

“It is great to know that the people there help make your life a little easier as you move into adult life,” Wilsdon said. “[Transitions] makes it not so scary to move into adult life.”

 

(Sabrina and Transitions Center Program Specialist, Jennifer Gero)

“Our goal is that we hope we are not missed when schooling ends – that all of the pieces are in place for your new team – you’ve got your job, you’ve got your life that makes you feel fulfilled in. You don’t need school anymore, you’re ready to be an adult,” Gero said.

“We had a young lady that finished in February of this year because she found the job she wanted, she got hired, she is working. She said, ‘you know, I don’t want to come to school anymore. I’m ready to be done with you guys.’ That is the answer we want – that you feel like you’ve made it and you are in that adulthood stage,” Gero added.


 

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