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Young adult students with special needs graduate with life, work skills

• Jun 4, 2018 at 2:00 PM

ALLENDALE — Thirty students in the Young Adult Services (YAS) program, a service of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, celebrated their graduation during a ceremony at the Allendale High School Ceglarek Fine Arts Center on May 22.

After receiving a Certificate of Completion from their local high school, qualifying young adults ages 18-26 may choose to attend YAS to gain further work and life skills that allow them to enter adult life as independently as possible.

Alison Schantz, a YAS Instructor at the Holland Transition Center, said she and other instructors “walk alongside students and help them learn how to do life,” including how to communicate well, safely travel around their communities, improve personal care and vocational skills, incorporate functional academics, and how to be responsible and active members of their communities. To further build skills, all students participate in multiple non-paid Work-Based Learning (WBL) opportunities while in the program.

“I usually tell my students they should treat time at their WBL site as a job interview because it might end up with them in a paid position,” Schantz said. “I have had that happen with a handful of my students, which is super exciting for everyone.”

After graduation, YAS works with several agencies including Michigan Rehabilitation Services for job placement, and Community Mental Health and Disability Network Lakeshore for student support resources.

“We anticipate the students who graduated will positively impact their communities with great enthusiasm, compassion, hard work and attitudes that are not only helpful, but provide an example to those around them on how life should be lived,” YAS Director Peter Johnson said.

YAS currently has 16 classrooms servicing approximately 215 students across the county, including locations in Coopersville, Grand Haven, Holland, Hudsonville and Zeeland.

Kirby Chittenden, a parent of a student in the Grand Haven YAS program, said his daughter gained invaluable work experience and life skills, and formed wonderful relationships through the program.

“She graduated YAS with two part-time jobs and now has an amazing network of support thanks to her involvement with YAS and the dedicated staff,” he said.

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