‘The Bridge’ program offers graduated students further development of skills

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Making their first homemade coaster sale to a member of the community, a group of graduated special service students practice their marketing and sale techniques. These students are given this workforce opportunity among many others in the district’s unique program called “The Bridge.”

The Bridge is a transitional program for students aged 18 to 21 that have graduated from a USD 232 high school and still require special education services. Their goal is to prepare students to function effectively and independently at the next stage of their life. To work towards this goal, they work on skills that are transferable to their future life by utilizing in-house opportunities and going to off-campus work sites. A typical day at the Bridge involves a group meeting, either going to work or doing laundry for the district, lunch prep, working on IEP goals, building chores and watching CNN 10.

The program, which was originally housed inside of Mill Valley, moved to its current location on 83rd Street in De Soto 10 years ago. According to Bridge facilitator Melynda Kaifes, the building had to undergo many changes in order to serve its purpose.

“They were using [the building] at the time as the technology center and they graciously moved to the district service center,” Kaifes said. “They did a lot of revamping of the facility and made it more of an apartment-like setting, so students have more availability to learn some life skills. The program really emphasizes life skills, so these changes were important.”

Although the program is for postgraduates, according to special education teacher T.J. Finan the process begins well before then.

“We begin by visiting the Bridge and touring the facilities and meeting the staff. Then we look for opportunities to bring the seniors back to the bridge [to familiarize them with the place,]” Finan said. “The impact the Bridge has is preparing our students to succeed.”

While a part of the program, Bridge students work on skills that pertain to their life at home like learning to care for an “apartment” or grocery shopping on a budget. However, they also have the opportunity to go into the community and participate in activities that will benefit their social life, according to Kaifes.

“They work on three things: employability, social skills and life skills,” Kaifes said. “Our goal is that they’ll generalize what they learn at the bridge into their post-school environment, whether it be in a job, a day services program or out volunteering.”

As part of this initiative, Bridge students take non-accredited classes through Johnson County Community College’s College Learning Experiences Activities and Resources, or CLEAR, program. These classes are aimed at helping students achieve goals they weren’t able to complete in high school. However, Kaifes believes it offers the students more benefits.

“These classes are an opportunity for our students to be around their typically-functioning peers. When they were in high school they were around all of their peers, but here at the Bridge they’re only around students similar to them,” Kaifes said. “We still want to give them the opportunity to be around other [people in their age range] and that opportunity is on a college campus.”

By Submitted by Jenna Sutter Brown
During a community-based interaction, or CBI, Bridge students stop at Santa Fe Trail on Friday, Oct. 26 to take photos. This outing teaches employability skills, as they’ll place the photos they take onto coasters, which will then be sold through a catalog.

Also to help Bridge students, specifically under the category of employability, are the numerous job opportunities available to them. Most recently, through a community-based interaction, or CBI, students were able to create their own coasters to sell. Bridge student Tyesha Allen’s favorite part of the program said this trip has been one of her favorites so far, but she enjoys all CBIs.

“We went downtown and we took pictures of places like Union Station and Liberty Memorial and we’re going to have a catalog that sells coasters with the pictures on it,” Allen said. “I like exploring what’s in the community and what’s out there. I really like interacting with people.”

Other job opportunities come from Bridge community partners, which range from local businesses to the USD 232 food service. At these partner locations, Bridge students are able to work one to two hour shifts each day. Allen works at two locations, Country Club Cafe in Shawnee and JT’s Bar and Grill in De Soto.

“I like working at [both of] my jobs and interacting with people,” Allen said. “I don’t like when it gets very busy though.”

Although the facility receives a majority of its funding through the district, Mill Valley’s Catty Shack also donates all of the profits it receives each school year to the Bridge. Catty Shack Vice President Ally Klaudt believes donating towards a district program as opposed to a state or national charity helps personalize the cause.

“We visited the Bridge and it helps us visualize what our money is going towards, and keeps us aware that what we do does have an impact,” Klaudt said. “I learned how humbling it can be to work for the school store and how much of an impact this money makes towards other people and their lives.”

For Kaifes, the Bridge has been her favorite portion of her education career.

“This is my 28th year in education and I’ve done special education through all of that. I’ve been lucky enough now for the last two years to be the Bridge facilitator,” Kaifes said. “These students give you so much more laughter and enjoyment than teaching in a regular high school setting.”

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Source: All About Shawnee

Invest time into your own life, not into YouTubers’

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The parlor game—a game that, somewhere along the way, my crazy family invented or picked up. An individual has a minute to describe a person, whether they be a friend or family member, a celebrity or a fictional character, to their teammates in hopes of them guessing correctly. Because any name is fair game as long as two people in the room know it, there’s always a wild assortment. Playing on Christmas day this past year, however, a team consisting of my two younger sisters and my middle-school-aged cousin rattled off descriptions of people no one in the room had heard of, describing their lives in greater detail than we’d seen done all game. When the three were asked the relationship they had to these people, they seemed almost offended that not everyone immediately knew the source of these names: YouTube.

For me, the most alarming part of this phenomenon was that their team struggled significantly with describing and remembering information about people they’d met in real life, but the date on which vlogger Roman Atwood got his German Shepherd somehow easily came to mind. The American society as a whole, though especially the younger generation, is in grave danger of replacing relationships with one another with “relationships” with people online whom we will likely never interact with.

The YouTube usage statistics as of 2018 are unfathomable. According to Business of Apps, a whopping 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube per minute. That’s over 18,000 hours per hour and 432,000 per day. While I admit to enjoying the occasional sports highlight or throwback vine compilation, I simply can’t imagine watching even the smallest percentage of this released media daily.

This being said, there must be someone out there watching all of that, right? According to Omnicore, 5 billion videos are watched every day, with the length of the average viewing session increasing by 50 percent this year to 40 minutes. Spending time with my sisters one day, they were very excited to show me their favorite vlogger’s most recent YouTube video. Together, we watched over 27 minutes of this woman describing the decor in her home. That’s nearly half an hour I could’ve spent doing absolutely anything else more productive.

Two pressing issues that constantly concern U.S. citizens are a general lack of sleep and an increase in obesity, and YouTube could easily be a contributor to both. With more time every year being spent on this site, less time is designated for activity and/or rest. Previously, traditional television has been blamed for these problems, but Omnicore says that as times are changing, twice as many millennials are watching YouTube videos as opposed to television shows.

Simply put, excessive YouTube watching has become an epidemic in our nation. This summer, I spent hours upon hours watching my nanny kids not play video games, but rather watch videos of other people playing video games. I’ve seen my sisters watch videos of other people online going on romantic dates or fun adventures with their friends as opposed to putting forth the effort to plan some with the people in their own lives. I’ve seen friends watch videos of other people making holiday-specific baked goods as opposed to experimenting with recipes themselves. YouTube can be a convenient resource for tutorials or an incredible outlet for reminiscing, but out of self-respect, it’s incredibly important that we remember to put down the devices every day, and start living our own lives before we’re stuck only watching other people lives theirs.

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Source: All About Shawnee