EAST HANOVER, NJ- It is a requirement for every school system in the state to have transition services provided for their special education students. The schools can offer a variety of different avenues to fulfill this requirement, but Hanover Park’s commitment to student development at all levels has seen them make a push for a strong and successful transition program that goes far and beyond the basic requirements from the state.

Transition programs provide a long-range cooperative plan that assists students with disabilities to successfully move from the scholastic environment to the adult environment. This includes job training and sampling, but also the everyday living tasks that many take for granted, like food shopping and volunteering. These programs provide the students of the district with an exponentially higher chance of achieving their life goals following their schooling.

It is important not only to have the systems in place, but to develop a philosophy on how to successfully transition our students with disabilities and how best to do that given the resources available in the community. In an effort to develop this philosophy and to see this program flourish, the Hanover Park Board of Education hired Bill Curts as the Transition Coordinator for the district last year. In this first year of Hanover Park’s renewed focus, the program has already quadrupled in size.

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“Last year we had four students and we were paying a company do that[transition services] and go out with the students,” said Director of Special Services, Cara Bayer. “Now we have 23 students in not even a calendar year going out. We have really been moving this program to benefit all of the students.”

The focus of the transition program is community based instruction. This enables the students to get out into their communities and learn practical experience outside of the school. One of the best examples of this are biweekly trips to ShopRite where the students learn to form shopping lists, use a cart and pay for their own purchases. They also go to restaurants where they learn how to order appropriately and to calculate their own tips.

There are also work experience opportunities in the school where students can learn and get experience working a variety of jobs. There is a very successful copy program in place that has delivered over 15,000 copies to teachers. This helps the students get moving throughout the building and interact with teachers and students. There is also a student who works as an assistant to the athletic trainer and students who work in the weight room, cleaning and maintaining the buses and to count and inventory each teacher’s keys to the building.

The program additionally focuses on job sampling that gives the students real work experiences in actually jobs across the district. The Market Street Mission, TGI Friday’s and Walgreens have all allowed the students to come in and get experience doing projects like stocking and keeping merchandise orderly. The ultimate goal of this is to get the students paid employment and a real leg up for the future.

 One of the students at TGI Fridays has already been hired on as a paid employee. This provides an atmosphere where the employer can come back and offer things to the teachers that the student can work on for their next shift and really prepare the student both in and out of the classroom.

“This is fully paid employment,” said Curts. “That’s the goal. For that to happen, we were very excited about that. He actually gave us a list of the top five places he wanted to work and that was on there.”

“He got himself the job,” Curts went on to say, “but to put things in place, to get him out there, to build his confidence, to practice interviewing and to help him fill out the application is important because without that, I’m not sure how quickly he would be able to get that job.”

This program is working towards a plan of constant progress throughout the student’s years of schooling. This is progress that directly translates into job and life skills that all of these students require. The success and growth of the program over the last year speaks to level of education Hanover Park Regional has set for its school district.