Four special education students in the Turlock Unified School District’s On Track Transitions Program walked the stage at Wednesday morning’s graduation ceremony, concluding a journey that taught them valuable lessons they will use not only in their everyday lives, but as they enter the workforce as well.
“This is a genuine group of students that have a can-do attitude all the time,” said Special Education Director Jeff Santos. “Despite the limitations they have, every single day they show up and have a zest for life.”
Jamis Murry, Cesar Rodriguez, Alan Wise and George Corsbie are a group “not short on personality,” according to their teacher, Rachel Knoepfle. When the boys weren’t showing off their quick wit by telling jokes, they were completing their individualized educational plans, which their families help to create, and learning a variety of life skills they will need in order to be independent post-graduation, from doing laundry and cooking to counting change and reading street signs.
“For our public school students who are age 18 to 22 and need a little bit of extra support, something like this gives students a very solid base for being successful adults wherever they choose to go,” said Knoepfle.
In addition to becoming skilled in everyday activities, the students also acquired work experience at various job sites that have partnered with On Track, like Turlock City Hall, Turlock Irrigation District, Mundo’s Latin Grill, The Salvation Army, Sacred Heart Thrift and Gift and United Samaritans. At the job sites, students participated in tasks to help the businesses run more smoothly, such as cleaning hallways, shredding paperwork, washing dishes and running mail.
Some of the students who graduated Wednesday, like Rodriguez, were a part of the program for years, while others joined just months ago, as was the case with Corsbie.
When Rodriguez began the program, he worked only one job site and hardly spoke to anyone. Now, he speaks in complete sentences and works at every job site — just one example of the positive effect On Track can have on students.
Corsbie, who came to the program in January, “quickly fit in,” said Santos. His skill set expanded greatly while in school, and he is currently working to pass his driver’s permit test with help from his teachers.
While the skills obtained in the On Track program are priceless for its students, opportunities abound for many of them after they graduate from the program thanks to the work experience they have gained. According to Knoepfle, Valley Mountain Region Center provides countless day programs and vocational training programs for On Track graduates, and some students go on to part-time work after they’ve completed schooling. Many students have gone on to attend Modesto Junior College classes or classes at the Continuum College here in town.
While Murry, Rodriguez, Wise and Corsbie are still deciding what their life after On Track will look like, Knoepfle knows great things await them.
“Wherever their paths end up taking them, the options are endless,” she said.