Woodland’s special needs Partners in Transition students learn to transition to adulthood

Students gain experience by organizing outings and learning from community professionals

WOODLAND — Woodland Public Schools’ Partners in Transition (PIT) students learn how to live and work in the adult world by learning from industry professionals, working in local businesses and taking part in adult experiences. Recently, students attended the Night to Shine dance and learned about aerodynamics and the theories of flight.

Woodland's Partners in Transition program teaches special needs students the skills they need to transition from school to adulthood. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland’s Partners in Transition program teaches special needs students the skills they need to transition from school to adulthood. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Each year, D’Ann Horrocks, the program’s teacher, seeks out different opportunities for the students to experience and enlists the help of community professionals to act as visiting teachers for the program. This year, students attended the Night to Shine dance event and learned about aerodynamics and the theories of flight from a visiting lecturer who works as a Pearson Air Museum docent.

Night to Shine An evening out on the town

In February, PIT students attended the Night to Shine, a special prom night experience for people aged 14 and older with special needs sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Students chose different roles to prepare and organize the different elements involved to attend the event including shopping for proper attire, organizing transportation to and from the event and making sure everyone who wanted to attend could do so. “I only brought them the idea of the dance – they had to organize all of the elements of attending the event,” said Horrocks. “Both the preparation for the event as well as actually going provides our students with valuable experience to participate in more adult activities out in public.”

The Partners in Transition students in Woodland organized a night on the town at the Night to Shine prom night experience. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
The Partners in Transition students in Woodland organized a night on the town at the Night to Shine prom night experience. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

The Woodland Action Center, a local nonprofit clothing providing basic needs to community members in need, helped the students pick clothes for their special night out. “The action center even hooked our students up with a fashion consultant who helped each student choose the right clothing for their night out,” said Horrocks.

During the Night to Shine, organizers staffed the event with adult assistants who would dance with students and hang out with the different groups. In addition, organizers made a room available for attendees to use if they felt over-stimulated as some attendees may have little experience in loud situations. Medical personnel were also on-hand should an attendee need specialized attention.

The students had a great time at Night to Shine and plan to find other similar events in the future. “I had never attended a dance before and it was a great experience,” said Jack Gatter, a 19-year old PIT student responsible for organizing transportation to and from the Night to Shine. “I really liked talking to everyone’s parents and getting to know their families better.”

Like Gatter, Howard Leroy, a 20-year old enrolled in PIT, had never been to a dance before. “I really enjoy dancing and I especially liked being with my friends having a social time.”

Keandie Ewert, a 20-year old PIT student, had a great time at the dance, too. “It was fun to see all of my friends outside of class including friends of mine from other programs in the area,” she said. “The dance was really fun – everyone ended up dancing in a conga line which was great.”

For Horrocks, seeing her students come together, organize an event and enjoy spending time together outside of class was a great experience, “I was incredibly happy with how inclusive our students were when it came to going to the dance,” she said. “All of the students wanted their classmates to attend, too, so they could also spend time with one another.”

Learning aerodynamics and theories of flight from the Pearson Air Museum

Gary Horrocks, D’Ann’s husband, recently visited the Partners in Transition program to teach students about theories of flying including aerodynamics, lift, thrust, engine stalling and the different kinds of airplanes.  Following their lessons, students created paper airplanes so they could study the concepts they learned in a practical, hands-on experience. Students “flew” their planes, analyzed their planes’ flight paths and made design adjustments to improve the flying characteristics.

Students learned aerodynamics from Gary Horrocks, a docent at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Students learned aerodynamics from Gary Horrocks, a docent at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Gary Horrocks volunteers at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver and the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville, Oregon. He regularly guest-lectures at the Partners in Transition program to teach students a variety of lessons including a recent session where students learned about theories of flight including aerodynamics, lift, thrust, engine stalling, different types of airplanes and more. “It’s great to be able to offer these students different experiences and lessons from the museums where I work,” he said. “I try to help out in any way I can because I really like working with these kids and learning from them.”

Woodland's Partners in Transition students learned about aerodynamics from a guest lecturer from the Pearson Air Museum. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland’s Partners in Transition students learned about aerodynamics from a guest lecturer from the Pearson Air Museum. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

D’Ann Horrocks regularly invites professionals from a variety of different professional backgrounds to provide lectures to her students. “I’m always seeking experts in different fields to come and discuss different concepts, career options and life experiences with my students,” she said. “The more exposure I can offer my students to the adult world, the more likely they are to find a career path that inspires and motivates them to succeed.”

Students learned aerodynamics from Gary Horrocks, a docent at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Students learned aerodynamics from Gary Horrocks, a docent at the Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

What is the Partners in Transition Program?

Woodland Public Schools started the PIT program in 2010 to provide special needs students ages 18-21 with opportunities to learn life skills and successfully transition from school to adulthood. “One of the most difficult challenges about working with this population of students is how society often feels they need to be catered to,” said D’Ann. “We turn that concept around by teaching students how to find their purpose and values so they can contribute to their communities and lead successful, independent lives.”

PIT students spend half of each day honing their functional academic, social and life skills. For the other half of their time, students participate in job study programs at local community job sites where they gain valuable work skills by working with businesses around Woodland. “We try to find as many relevant real-world job opportunities as possible,” said D’Ann. “We’re always looking for more businesses to partner with in order to offer our students opportunities to develop a broad range of career skills.”

Community members, professionals and businesses interested in partnering with the Partners in Transition program may contact D’Ann Horrocks via email at horrockd@woodlandschools.org or by calling (360) 841-8540. You can also learn more about the Partners in Transition Program by visiting the Woodland Public Schools website at www.woodlandschools.org.

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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