A fun and exciting new program at Hanover Park High School started this school year for eligible students ages 18-21 to help them transition into adult life. The program incorporates Community-Based Instruction that takes place in the community rather than in a school building and focuses on self-advocacy, basic needs of young adults, realistic job choices, personal responsibility and life goals.
Over the summer, one of the larger classrooms was transformed into a functional apartment complete with a kitchen, table, washer/dryer, and living room. Together with their teachers, Rachel Romano and William Curts, and aides/job coaches Michelle Nekich, Michael Bizzarro and Charlie Calantone, students experience real-life situations and work through them.
On a cold morning, I visited this classroom and was immediately greeted by a student who offered me a cup of coffee. While this was a kind and thoughtful gesture, the student was reminded to say good morning first and then welcome me in to his “home.” Introductions were made and I discovered the group was getting ready for a trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles. There they would procure a photo identification card necessary when applying for a job in a community setting. A student’s work placement is guided by their individual plans; supervision during work hours by their teachers and/or job coaches is also a component of this program. Some jobs they are sampling are Carlo’s Bakery, Walgreens in Morristown, Spirit Halloween, T.J. Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Little Duck Daycare, Sports Care, Hyatt House, and many more.
Additional outings include a visit the supermarket to get information regarding healthy food choices and ways to use those foods to prepare delicious, nutritious meals when they return to school. They will continue to explore healthy habits by joining The Greater Morristown Y.M.C.A. and attending classes twice a week.
A social component is also incorporated into the curriculum where students will interact with their peers outside school; this too is an important part of the life skills objective. A visit to the local diner with a group from Morristown to celebrate Halloween gave them a chance to put what they learned into practice. They will also be introduced to the ARC, which is a public resource for adults to socialize in the community.
These opportunities allow our transitional students to gain the experience they need to lead independent lives once they leave HP, but until they do, they will continue to grow and explore the world with confidence.