Over the course of the last several weeks, 22 Perkins students have visited area colleges to learn what their options are after graduation. As part of their exploration, they have visited a total of four community colleges and a vocational school: Middlesex Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Mount Wachusett Community College, Massasoit Community College, and Porter and Chester Institute. Most who went on a community college tour also visited Porter and Chester Institute to get a feel for both.
Director of Career Development Lisa Beneche said, “My job with juniors and seniors is to teach them the next steps available after high school, and college is one of them. They also receive information and advice from their individual clinicians. We have had two kids go into the military over the last two years, and that choice came out of work with their clinician,” Lisa said.
Without some previous exposure, college and its unique vocabulary can be scary. “Leading up to the tours, we spend time looking at college websites and learning how to navigate inside of them,” Lisa explained. “We also talk about terminology so the first time they hear the word syllabus they have a basic idea of what is being referred to. We also spend time talking and exploring options to make sure college is the next best step.”
Some of the questions Lisa asks in the preparatory work are: would it be better for me to work part time and go to school part time? Would I benefit more from working full time or part time? Would I like to attend an adult vocational program?
While at the colleges, the students have the opportunity to meet with the disability services coordinator, as well as the admissions director. They also take a tour of the campus and have the opportunity to see inside of a classroom. One of Lisa’s main goals with touring colleges and preparing kids for the future is to let them know there is no single right way.
“Some students may need someone to teach them self-advocacy skills that will help them access what they need so college isn’t so scary,” Lisa said “We speak at length to IEP students about accessing the disability services available to them if they choose to go the college route, but meeting the disability service provider takes it one step further.”
The main reason that the tours succeed, according to Lisa, is because it puts classroom learning into real world action. “To go over college terms and potential future plans in a classroom is step one, but when these kids go on a tour it really takes away some of the mystery.”