Parents, teachers and students wonder that each day. For many, the answer is simple: whatever comes next in a standard progression. What about students whose standards are different? Students in LISD’s Focus on the Future (FoF) program are broadening their horizons and discovering their options for what comes next thanks in part to grants from LEF.
When FoF students age out of public school they need to be prepared for big changes. They have always received transportation to school. That ends. They aren’t likely to have a driver’s license. They need to be prepared to navigate public transit and find their niche so they have a daily routine that benefits them. The goal of FoF is that they will be prepared to thrive.
LEF is proud to support FoF in two ways. The first is Project Search, a high school transition program whose objective is to generate higher-skilled workers and see students gainfully employed when they leave their local school district’s special education program. The partnership is between LISD, Medical Center of Lewisville (MCL), Project Search, Texas Department of Assistance and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and Quest Employment Agency. These organizations work together to place FoF students in internships as they approach the end of their public education, with the hope that students are gainfully employed at the end of their internship.
Project Search places students in positions where they will hone skills that will transition to other jobs. Some of those are work-specific skills, such as filing paperwork or verifying expiration dates on hospital medications. There are other skills, like learning appropriate workplace interaction, learning to seek the natural support offered in a workplace and building co-worker relationships, and learning to navigate public transportation as they are learning skills to transition into their adult lives.
In 2013, eleven FoF students participated as Project Search interns at MCL. LEF provided iPads for the students. (They were not on a campus served by LISD’s 1:X program, which provided iPads to many of LISD’s 53,000 last year.) The iPads enabled students to use photos and videos for training, to engage in role-play, and then to critique their own efforts at completing assigned tasks. For example, interns at MCL used photos of appropriately configured surgical trays as a guide when preparing trays for sterilization.
Starfish Creations is the other aspect of the LEF/FoF partnership. Students who participate in Starfish creations either were not selected for Project Search or are not old enough to be eligible for Project Search. Their days are spent in a campus setting in FoF where they learn skills that will benefit them in the community. Some students participate in bead stringing and jewelry making. Others work to maintain Starfish Café – a café in which students provide meals to paying customers. These students learn to count change, take orders, roll silverware, wash dishes, launder napkins, greet customers and prepare simple dishes. Another group of students works in a print shop setting or a silkscreen shop. The skills they gain in these settings enable them to pursue real world opportunities. Earlier this spring several students were offered jobs in local screen-printing businesses because they were able to hit the ground running thanks to the skills they learned in FoF. One student actually had competing offers.
LEF funded a high temperature dryer for the silkscreen shop, increasing the number of shirts the program can produce, thereby giving the program greater real-world application. LEF funds also provided silverware and napkins for Starfish Café, increasing the opportunities for students to learn skills they can use in their future, like laundry, dishwashing and, should they seek restaurant employment, the rolling of silverware.
For FoF students, what’s next is success thanks to FoF’s strong program and support from LEF donors.