Transition to Life Fair aims to prepare students beyond school

DOVER — While students with learning differences have a variety of resources at school, district officials throughout Kent County want to make sure the are prepared when they go beyond the school’s walls.

To connect students with the resources in the greater Kent community, Capital School District officials organized the Transition to Life Fair.

“We only have them until 12th grade or until they’re 21, depending on when they choose to stay in the school system, where these agencies are going to work with them after they exit the school system,” said Kathi Stephan, associate principal for secondary students at Kent County Community School.

“It really is sort of a piece of the partnership — there’s the school system, the parents and then our community partners,” she said. “We all have to really work together to have our students be successful in the long run.”

The inaugural Kent County Transition to Life Fair will be held on March 10, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Capital School District office building, 198 Commerce Way.

The fair is free and open to all students with an individualized education program in the county. In addition to Capital, other Kent County districts are participating, including Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest, Milford and Smyrna, as well as Positive Outcomes Charter School. The Delaware Department of Education is also involved.

“This will be really the first time all of these districts have worked together for one common good, and that’s really for all students 14 to 21 who have an IEP,” Ms. Stephan said.

New Castle County has held a Transition to Life Fair for the past eight years, and Ms. Stephan said they sought to bring the same offerings to their students in Kent County.

In a transition IEP, there are three main goals, she added: employment, additional training and education and independent living.

“Those are the three strands we decided to focus on, and find resources and people to come in and tell them a little bit about what they do and how they can support our students, not just while they’re in school. But even after they graduate and into their adult life,” she said.

Three breakout sessions will target healthy relationships, pre-employment training services and mental health awareness, said Christy Betts, special education transition coordinator for Capital School District.

Beyond the sessions, Ms. Betts said community vendors will also have tables set up with information on training, education, employment, independent living, counseling and transportation.

“Ultimately our goal, and all of these partners as well, is to just have a well-rounded developed, successful individual who can get out after school, and become employed and be ready, to not just get a job, but be able to stay and hold a job,” Ms. Stephan said.

The theme of the evening, Ms. Betts added, is the “Amazing Race to Adulthood.” Organizers will hand out passports and if attendees get stickers from each category, they’ll earn tickets to win prizes.

Ms. Stephan said that the New Castle County event has had such success that it’s held at the Chase Center in Wilmington for demand. They hope to see that same response in Kent.

“It’s never too early to start. Come and start getting your resources and making your connections,” Ms. Betts said. “We’re working on everyone getting out of their silos and coming together to form true partnerships that benefit the students and their families.”