Transitioning to Success

students seated at table in WRGW studio surrounded by microphones
May 08, 2010

D.C. special education students explore post-secondary options, gain work experience through partnership with GW.

By Jamie L. Freedman

High school juniors with learning disabilities are getting a jump start on post-secondary life, thanks to an innovative partnership between GW and the Kingsbury School.

The C.I.T.Y. (Career Investigation for Transition Youth) Program, launched three years ago by faculty members at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, brings Kingsbury students to GW for a series of events exploring educational and employment opportunities. The semester-long program kicks off each year with campus tours and job site visits, and culminates with one-on-one job shadowing and paid summer internships in departments across GW. Kingsbury is an independent Washington-based K-12 school for students with language-based learning disabilities,

“It’s a great partnership,” says Juliana Taymans, professor of special education and lead faculty of GSEHD’s transition special education program, who co-founded the CITY program. “CITY meets the often-neglected transition needs of diploma-track students with disabilities, while allowing us to be a contributing member of the community. It is an enriching experience for all of us.”

The 2010 program got underway this month with a hands-on, community mapping experience for Kingsbury’s junior class. “The students were divided into small teams and given maps of the Foggy Bottom Campus and a list of places to find and visit, such as Ivory Tower, the Gelman Library, the Lerner Health and Wellness Center, the GW Bookstore, and a technology classroom at Duques Hall,” Dr. Taymans says. “Along the way, they asked GW students questions about University life and collected information, coming away with a solid overview of the range of educational and work opportunities available at GW.”

Next, Kingsbury students identified GW departments they’d like to learn more about and were invited back to campus for specific job-site visits. “The visits last approximately one hour and provide an opportunity for students to ask questions and form opinions,” Dr. Taymans explains. Based on their interests, the Kingsbury juniors then participate in two job shadowing experiences. “They are matched one-on-one with GW employees and spend two hours following them and learning about their daily responsibilities and expectations,” she says.

The program culminates with a five-week paid summer internship program for select students, supplemented by career development workshops. “The internships, funded by the HSC Foundation, give the Kingsbury students valuable work experience that helps them discover their strengths and talents and set goals for post-secondary education and employment,” Dr. Tayman says. Eleven GW departments have participated in the program since its inception: the GW Police Department, the GW Bookstore, Gelman Library, athletics, catering, facilities, the radio station, the General Counsel’s Office, Lerner Health and Wellness Center, parking services and ResNet.

“The GW-Kingsbury partnership is a win-win situation that bolsters the career development of D.C. school students and enhances their connection with higher education,” says Andrew Sonn, Ed.D. ’09, GW’s director of customer service initiatives. “It truly embodies best practices when it comes to leveraging the intellectual capital and community service focus of GW to help the D.C. community, and is a real feel-good effort.”

Longtime partners in education, GW and the Kingsbury School have worked collaboratively for a decade. Kingsbury is a fertile training ground for GW students pursuing master’s degrees in special education. “For years, our graduate students have been working as teaching assistants at Kingsbury and many of them have subsequently been hired there,” Dr. Taymans says.

Down the road, she hopes the CITY program will become a model for other schools. “We have developed a comprehensive, user-friendly manual to help other universities and high schools replicate the program, and offer Web-based and face-to-face workshops for interested parties,” Dr. Taymans says. She also plans to ultimately get GW undergraduates involved in the program as mentors for the Kingsbury students.

Dr. Sonn calls the program a perfect example of partnership. “The initiative brings people together across schools, divisions and departments, and gives D.C. high school kids a sense of what life is like at a university and beyond,” he says. “It is a wonderful program for everyone involved.”

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