Education programs give back to community

Chelsea Cassudakis

Kent State students involved with the Center for Innovation in Transition and Employment are starting the semester with two programs that benefit high school students with disabilities.

These programs are the Kent State Transition Collaborative and the newer Campus Transition Project, both under the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

Robert Baer, director of CITE, explained the purpose of the center’s programs were to train their teachers while providing real world experiences for high school students with disabilities.

The programs have proved successful for what the center is aiming towards, Baer explained.

“Through the programs, students are about four times more likely to get a job after high school,” Baer said.

Tom Hoza, project director for CTP, said the program, which started last fall, is the first to work with students with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-22, to give them a chance to experience college life.

Participants undergo “an individual discovery process” through recreation and leisure activities, continuing education and independent living, he explained.

The CTP gives students an opportunity to experience a college lifestyle. The experience will be based around finding the students’ strengths, preferences, interests and needs. Once they have established these, they can sit in on a college class selected based on their discoveries about themselves, Hoza said.

He explained that a few months into the CTP, students and families are asked to attend a Person-Centered Planning Retreat. At the retreat, the students explain to family members what they have discovered about themselves during the program. They also answer a question: “What do you want out of life?”

After the retreat, the students continue on the program with individualized schedules based on their findings. These schedules can include exploring more college classes, employment opportunities, involvement in campus clubs, art and sport activities and other individual learning interests, Hoza said.

Babette Cameron, project director for KSTC, explained this 25-year-old program requires the collaboration between local schools, local employers and CITE at Kent State.

The KSTC is broken up into separate training programs. The first being a two-day a week career exploration to allow students to try out different jobs on campus. The second is job training, a four-day a week program that gives students paid work experiences.

“The career exploration part of the program involves students figuring out what jobs they’re interested in and learning what a basic work day entails,” Cameron described. “By the end of job training, they are working side by side with other KSU student employees.”

“Students in high school are entitled to everything they need. They’re entitled to speech therapy, physical therapy and anything else needed,” she explained. “The minute they leave the school system, they’re not entitled to anything. That’s why they need so much assistance making that jump.”

Cameron said the high school students are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to receive the care that they need. Once high school ends, the IDEA no longer provides every student with disabilities those needs. The KSTC and CTP ease the transition into the real world.

The program is usually geared toward training graduate students in the college, but recently started using undergraduates as well, Cameron said.

“Our goal is to help the students live as independently as possible in their communities,” Hoza said. “We want them to become productive, but also want them to become life-long learners in the process.”

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