ISD Transition Program enjoys new location at Armory

MANISTEE — When different groups work together, the end result is usually a positive one for both sides.

Manistee Intermediate School District Transition Program student Dakota Benson is shown cooking Gluten free peanut butter cookies for his fellow students. One of the aspects of the program is to help the ISD students prepare to transition into the next step in their lives.

Manistee Intermediate School District Transition Program student Dakota Benson is shown cooking Gluten free peanut butter cookies for his fellow students. One of the aspects of the program is to help the ISD students prepare to transition into the next step in their lives.

When the Manistee Intermediate School District Transition Program was looking for a new home closer to Manistee the concept of using space at the Armory Youth Project came to light. It was something that is turning out to be an outstanding move for both groups.

The MISD Transition program has 18 students 18-26 years of age and is designed to help them develop skills to both live independently and to gain skills to possibly enter the workforce. The success of the program has been great in providing them those skills.

ISD superintendent Dave Cox said he thinks the program will grow even more in its new home.

“I think the sky really is the limit on this new location,” said Cox.

Manistee ISD special education director Brooke McIsaac said the Manistee Area Public Schools and Bear Lake Schools officials were very welcoming during their stay in their buildings. She said the ISD appreciates the time they spent at those locations.

“We were invited to pep assemblies, we had mentors in the building and there were great experiences in both locations that our kids benefited from, but looking down the road as our kids grow into adults and young adults we need to help them become as independent as possible. But when we were in Bear Lake we lost a lot of time in travel going back and forth to our activities.”

The Armory Youth Project benefits, as they gain rent from the ISD and it puts another group in their building earlier in the day.

McIsaac said when they learned about the availability of the Armory, they knew it would be a good fit.

“It allows for daily interaction with local citizens, opportunities to participate in community activities that are offered throughout the day,” said McIsaac. “It lends itself to building a different skill set through opportunities in working around the building inside and out. There is pickleball in there, a yoga class, art and many other community based  opportunities that are coming right to that location.”

Learning to live on your own means being able to purchase food for yourself and students are shown at the Meijer Store learning how to pick out food items.

Learning to live on your own means being able to purchase food for yourself and students are shown at the Meijer Store learning how to pick out food items.

She said the options are many at the Armory Youth Project and teacher Susie Foster and Transition Community Living Experience coordinator Jennifer Wasson are utilizing all of them to increase opportunities for students.

“We have gardens, kitchen access and help with janitorial activities,” said McIsaac. “We are closer in proximity to community resources and partnerships with area businesses for work based learning opportunities. This is a direct conduit for age appropriate community interaction with adult contact and mentoring.”

One of the big goals of the program is developing the social skills of the students for taking that next step into the world. McIsaac said the Armory building is the perfect environment to make that happen.

“This is a great place for social skill development, navigating the community and building the pic 4transition bridge to adulthood,” said McIsaac. “This is a unique opportunity in which the sky is the limit and the future growth is limited only by our imagination.”

Cox agreed with that assessment and said it gives access to all age groups.

“Social skill attainment and development is good for them,” said Cox.

McIssac said the program has been very successful throughout the years.

“Our hope through this location and the connections they make and the more opportunities for work based learning some of them may have the opportunity to be employed on a part-time or voluntary basis,” said McIsaac.

Cox said that is the ultimate goal.

“It’s the bridge to adulthood and some kind of meaningful employment for them,” said Cox.

The Transition program has 13 community living experience training agreements with Love INC, Homeward Bound Animal Shelter, Two Slices, Save-A-Lot, and Family Video and several others.

I’m always looking for more businesses or community events for our students to help out at or participate in,” said Wasson.

McIsaac said word is starting to spread about the new location and it is drawing in some new partners.

“Since we moved to the Armory we already gained two new work based sites that are local and willing to take us on,” said McIsaac. “Those opportunities continue to grow. We are hoping to make more connections and continue to grow just by being in the Armory, that might want us to volunteer or have a field trip of something like that what we didn’t know about it.”

Students like the program and what it has to offer.

Olivia Rackow when asked where her favorite place to go said “Homeward Bound because the cats make me happy”

Dakota Benson when asked what his favorite thing to do while at school. “I like the portable (classroom), I can use the laptops there and cook food.”

The group also learns important life skills like how to do laundry, home maintenance, gardening, cooking and cleaning through a portable classroom that has been set up at Madison Elementary designed like a home.

It is all part of giving them life skills making them prepared for the transition to the next step in their lives.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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