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New Independent Living Program for 18-21 Year-Old Classified Students

The ESCNJ’s Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) program is designed to strengthen independent living skills for 18-21 year-old special needs students. Credits: Courtesy of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey

To help fill the void many 18-21 year- old special needs students experience when their peers graduate from high school and move on to college or the working world, the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ), will start a Pathways to Adult Living (PAL) program in September 2017.

“The program is for students who have completed their high school academic requirements, yet need additional Community-based Instruction (CBI) in preparation for independent living,” said Superintendent Mark J. Finkelstein.

“Our Board of Directors recognized the need to offer this type of transition opportunity to the 18-21 year-old population, and were unanimous in voting to support the program,” he said.

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Under the guidance of appropriately certified Structured Learning Experience (SLE) faculty, staff, and job coaches, students will begin each day at a newly built storefront on Main Street in downtown Sayreville, said Assistant Superintendent for Learning/Ed. Services Gary Molenaar.

“The students will devote some time to technology infused functional academic work, and several hours reinforcing daily living skills like cleaning, painting, changing bed sheets and preparing meals, in addition to learning how to safely use equipment like a washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, microwave oven and dishwasher,” Mr. Molenaar said.

Students will participate in individual and group job sampling and internships as well, building upon the job training relationships the ESCNJ has established for over a decade with numerous employers including  Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, Marshall’s, Lowe’s,Elijah’s Promise, TJ Maxx, Burger King, and ShopRite.  Daily training in the use of public transportation like New Jersey Transit, Access Link, including Uber, and Lyft is also part of the program.

The ESCNJ will offer students and their families support when interacting with adult service providers including The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), and the Social Security Administration.

For further information about the PAL program, please contact Mr. Molenaar at (732) 777-9848, Ext. 5010, or

The ESCNJ operates six schools with services for students ages 3-21 with autism, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors, in addition to shared services to special education students statewide.  The largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, the ESCNJ coordinates transportation services for nearly 14,000 students in over half of New Jersey’s 21 counties, and manages a 1,100 member Co-op Pricing System, the largest cooperative buying program in the state.

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