SHSLifeSkills4Sisters High School’s transition program helps prepare students with special needs to lead independent and productive lives after they graduate.

The class is held off campus at the Belfry in downtown Sisters. Transition teacher Josh Nordell leads the group in discussions about what it takes to be a “grown up” with real world relationships and responsibilities.

Thanks to amazing community partnerships, the students have jobs or internships that give them hands on, real world experiences. Some of them are working at Rio restaurant, Sisters Athletic Club, Melvin’s Grocery, Ray’s Market and the City of Sisters. They are also learning to play golf with local pro Bill Mitchel, and learning Tai Kwon Do with black belt Sherri Hermens. Other opportunities include working in the community garden and woodshop at Harmony Farms. The class has a cooking lesson once at week as well.

“We are working on creating all the soft skills for being an adult,” Nordell recently told the Bend Bulletin. “We know they can do the job. We are helping them learn how to function socially within the job.”

Students supporting students

In addition to the transition class, the district has a comprehensive program for special needs students grades K though 12. There is also a strong culture of support and acceptance between general and special education students in Sisters who connect in a variety of unique ways.

“Project Unify” is a team sports initiative where mainstream students partner with their special needs peers to play against similar teams from other schools. The Project Unify basketball team recently completed its season. The softball team is underway right now.

General education high school students are working with special education students in a life skills mentoring program. Younger special education students are also included in some of the transition program activities.

“We are really trying to blur the lines of the buildings to get kids what they need,” said Nordell. “This way our younger special ed. students get to see the opportunities ahead and the transition students have the chance to be mentors and role models.”