Making a Difference in Students Futures
Jason’s disappointments started early in life, his first when he was removed from pre-school for being disruptive and unruly. Suffering from ADHD, undiagnosed until high school, Jason had few friends, and struggled with school. When his ADHD was diagnosed, the private school he was attending was unable to help. In 2003, as a sophomore, he transferred to the Special Education program at Leuzinger H.S. where services were available to meet his special needs.
He arrived at Leuzinger with a huge chip on his shoulder, angry, failing most of his classes, fighting with his parents and classmates, depressed, and discouraged. Leuzinger was more of the same. Home study became the refuge of last resort. A bright and sensitive young man (everyone said so), nothing had helped him achieve even the simplest of dreams; he wanted to graduate high school, find a job and lead a productive and full life. Even in Home Study, Jason’s dream was fading.
Seeing his frustration, in the fall of 2004, his Home Study teacher referred him to CVUHSD Transition Services. Distrustful of the process, all Jason could imagine were more broken promises, more adults who said they wanted to help and then gave up on him.
Upon his first visit to the Transition Services, Susan Sklar, Project Facilitator, separated the family members and talked privately with Jason who broke down and confessed he felt helpless and hopeless, he didn’t want promises, he wanted a path to a future and self sufficiency, something many had offered, but none had shown him.
Susan saw someone who was bright, capable, and sensitive, someone who wanted help, but also wanted to help. Susan’s focus was “what can Jason do” not “what can’t he do.” After spending time with him, assessments, and a careful search of potential employers, he was placed in sales at a Pet Store.
For the first time in his life, he found himself enjoying something, achieving some respect for what he could do, not rebuke for what he couldn’t. His next assignment was in a warehouse, again he excelled, and after six months, they offered him permanent employment. But Jason was experiencing something new, self-confidence, he had been successful in two different jobs, for the first time he was imbued with a sense of self-worth and purpose, he saw an achievable dream, and a future within his reach. All because someone took the time to address what he could do, not correct what he could not.
For years, his relationship with his family was contentious, rancorous, and at best poor. His family ran an automotive repair shop, and Jason loved motorcycles and fixing things. His family’s shop had an opening for an apprentice mechanic, and Jason applied. At first skeptical, his father finally relented and agreed to hire Jason on a trial basis.
Jason has now been on the job for more than two years. He is an exemplary employee, well liked by co-workers and customers alike. Oh, and for the first time in his life he has found a best friend, his dad and he are inseparable, and his mom says she has her son back, one she cherishes and had missed for years. Best of all, Jason has plans for his new future, he has bought his first car, is making plans to obtain his GED, looks forward to buying a home, and expanding the auto repair business.
Exemplary Best Practices
The Centinela Valley Union High School District Office of Transition Services is committed to empowering all students with disabilities, beginning at age 14, with the requisite skills to achieve their full potential in adult living and throughout their lives, through support and collaboration with families, schools and community.
The collaboration of staff, and the continuum of services starting at intake at age 14, through age 22 and beyond, is the key to the program’s success. The outstanding rapport of staff extends to all areas of service. Clients are shared among the staff to find the best mix of training skills, employer contacts, and compatible personalities.
There are three funded programs in the Transition Services office, Workability (providing services and subsidized training to students, 14-22 years), Transition Partnership Program (providing service and permanent unsubsidized employment for 11th and 12th grade and beyond), and Adult Transition Program (services and placement for non-diploma bound students).
When the CAHSEE (The California High School Exit Exam) takes effect, next year, it is likely that many of Transition Services students will not receive diplomas, making the need and demand for Transition Services even greater. If the goal of an education is too give students the tools and skills necessary to lead independent and productive lives, Transition Services may be the only hope the CVUHSD Special Education students have.
Based on the programs extraordinary successes, funding for Workability, the largest of the programs offered, has grown over the past 10 years from $37,800 to more than $270,000.
Districts Vision and Support
Superintendent support for Transition Services is demonstrated through assignment of a full-time trained and credentialed Special Education teacher, Susan Sklar (33 years in Special Education with CVUHSD), exclusively as the Project Facilitator. The need for Transition Services will be even greater with the implementation of CAHSEE.
Active stakeholders include: all CVUHSD schools, six county schools, eight non-public schools, and Centinela Valley Adult Education and four feeder districts. Included among our more than 50 employer/business partners are: the Screen Actor’s Guild Foundation, Marshalls, Toys R Us, Vons, Footaction, Lady Footlocker, Best Buy stores, Powers Chevrolet, and Marriott. .
Additional Stakeholders include the Southwest SELPA, the Department of Education, the Department of Rehabilitation and the Southern California Regional Occupational Center. Each student’s general and vocational educators participate in the students transition planning and coordination of activities designed with an outcome oriented process that promotes movement from school to post secondary activities, including education, vocational training and employment..
Some of our most ardent stakeholders are clients who have graduated from the program and continue contact for years beyond. In fact, Jason’s family’s auto shop is currently interviewing Transition Services clients for employment.
Susan Sklar, Project Facilitator, serves on the State Regional Conference Training Committee, currently serves on the SELPA Transition Committee, and the SELPA Local Plan Committee, and is a past member of the Media Access Committee, a past member of the ICAN committee through the Department of Rehabilitation. These activities serve as a network for replicating successful initiatives, disseminating referrals to regional and national employers to other programs statewide, as well as frequent trainings and reproducing Best Practices via their newsletters and conferences. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and an Administrative and Learning Handicapped Credential.