Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Richey visited Meriden Public Schools during the 2018 Back-to-School Tour. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The Meriden Public Schools in Meriden, Connecticut creatively programs its education offerings to meet the needs of all students to ensure their success.
Creative programming requires high-quality and appropriate staffing investments, state-of-the-art facilities, and board of education and school buy in.
When evaluating the needs of our 18–21 year old students, it became clear that we needed a district-wide continuum of services. We recognized the need for transitional programming to be outside of the high school walls and in the students’ home-based community.
The Community Classroom Collaborative (CCC) was launched to serve students with varying disabilities, ages 18–21, in an age-appropriate and natural environment. The purpose of the CCC is to serve as a bridge between school and adult life by involving students in a variety of transition, vocational and employment activities, social/leisure/recreational skills training and opportunities for independent living activities.
The CCC program is based in Meriden’s city center rather than in the high school, and young adults continue to be enrolled in high school while receiving “transition only” services through the CCC program.
Meriden Public Schools created the community-based program in 2012 with the assistance of the YMCA, one of our major community partners. The program has tripled in size since then.
Nyrka, a former CCC student, is a true success story, and we are proud that she is a Meriden Public Schools’ graduate. Her personal story is not an easy one as she was presented with many obstacles both at home and at school. Nyrka was an active participant in her planning and placement team individualized education program and it was planned for her to attend the CCC for transitional programming.
While Nyrka was involved in the CCC, she participated in all that the district offered. She was supported in her employment; she learned to utilize her community for healthy/leisure activities through her YMCA membership provided as part of the CCC; and she gained skills in personal finance, self-advocacy, and independent living and life skills. With the support of the staff and programming, Nyrka became connected with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which assisted her in moving into her own apartment and aided her in making healthy life choices.
As Nyrka progressed through the program, her independence skills soared. Nyrka gained competitive employment in retail and gained enough confidence to speak at different events in regards to her school growth experiences.
Last January, Nyrka requested to complete her program early in order to attend the spring semester at Middlesex Community College in the college’s human service assistant certificate program. Today, Nyrka is employed as a self-advocate coordinator through DDS. She lives independently and enjoys her work and sharing her story with others.
We couldn’t be more proud of Nyrka and all that she has accomplished.
Nyrka’s story is one of many. When our students start in the CCC they are often reserved, unsure of themselves, and unsure where they fit in for employment and socialization as young adults. When they complete their education at the CCC, they leave with confidence in communication, confidence in knowing what they want out of their employment and confidence in being able to work through the social aspects that lie ahead.
Having the students graduate and able to live a healthy, active, productive lifestyle within the community is key to ensuring that we are giving our students a chance for a better life.
In Meriden, here all students succeed.
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