Transition… for those who have a developmental disability or know someone who does, "transition" can be a frightening word. In Massachusetts, students stop receiving funding and services from their local school system the day they turn 22. State funding for adults with disabilities is extremely limited, and programs designed to help individuals with disabilities lead more independent lives are also suffering as a result of the tough economic times.
Now, more than ever before, it is crucial that students with disabilities start preparing for their transition at the age of fourteen. Cardinal Cushing Centers, located in Hanover, MA, has several ways to prepare students for this crucial juncture. As the students approach their high school years, most make the transition from Cushing's academic focused track to the vocational program. Vocational students experience on-campus work opportunities in the Bass Village Café, the Cushing Thrift Store, the Cushing Trader, the Bottle Redemption Center, the Culinary Arts Department, and Central Supply.
The school also collaborates with Best Buddies Jobs, which has provided Cushing Centers with a dedicated job coach. Several transition-age students are now employed out in the community, working competitive jobs at Cohasset Cycles, Bruegger's Bakery, the South Shore YMCA, and Old Navy, to name a few. Kelsey Jordan, Employment Consultant, works directly with the students to help them find jobs and job training opportunities that match their interests and skill sets. Jordan provides on-site job coaching and evaluations, as well as help with job seeking skills, including resume building and interview prep.
Nine students attend classes at Cape Cod Community College through a collaborative program, Project Forward and one student attends class at Massasoit Community College. Jeff K., a member of Project Forward, speaks highly of his experience attending community college. "I like it - it's a fun, college experience and it has a different feel from being on campus [at Cushing]. You work on all the basic skills you need for life." Jeff will turn 22 this coming August. He is planning to live on his own in an apartment. His dream job is to work in sports management.
Cardinal Cushing Centers' CEO, is Jo Ann Simons, an expert on transition and the author of "The Down Syndrome Transition Handbook", recently published in March of 2010. Jo Ann also travels to various conferences and organizations to speak on the topic of transition and will be speaking at the upcoming ICEA conference in May of 2011.
Cardinal Cushing Centersis a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides a life-centered approach in caring for children, adults and seniors with disabilities, offering residential, day, vocational and educational programs.