Manheim Central students ready to take the Next Step

By on August 10, 2016

Even though summer vacation is winding down, five Manheim Central High School students are looking forward to the new school year. They’ll be the first students in a new program the district is launching that’s known as the Next Step program.

Traci Stauffer, the district supervisor of special education, explained that the program is a transition program for students with disabilities. It’s specifically geared toward seniors or 13th year students who have already met the credit requirements for graduation.

“We’re starting small for the first year. Our five students have been through our school-to-work program. The Next Step Program will help them build the foundation for their career,” Stauffer explained, “It’s a collaboration between the district and the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.”

She said that students will learn skills to encourage independent living. Instead of reporting to the high school for their school day, students will report to the Next Step headquarters in a home at 101 S. Penn St., adjacent to H.C. Burgard Elementary School. Additionally, students will work with local businesses during two 10-week paid internships — one in the fall and one in the spring.

“This program is really important,” said Manheim Central school board member Mike Clair. “It will give students with special needs an opportunity to learn how to live independently. It will also give them a leg-up on a career. It’s outstanding that so many area businesses have reached out to support the program and our students through the internship program.”

Stauffer said that wages are provided through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Businesses partnering in the program are Friendship Community, Fenner Drives, Rettew’s Catering, Rettew’s Twin Kiss, Hampton Inn, Pleasant View Retirement Community, Worley & Obetz, and Manheim Central Food Services. Stauffer said that the business partners will offer a variety of jobs through the internship program, and students will apply for them.

 

Amber Kelly, one of the Next Step inaugural class members, helps beautify the program’s headquarters on South Penn Street in Manheim. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Amber Kelly, one of the Next Step inaugural class members, helps beautify the program’s headquarters on South Penn Street in Manheim. (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

 

“They’ll be able to get real world experience. Since we offer two internships, they’ll have the opportunity to explore different fields if they wish to do so,” Stauffer explained.

Joe Birli, Friendship Community director of operations, said that the organization is offering some skill-based opportunities in the maintenance department. The organization has a number of facilities including group homes and an office as well as a fleet of vehicles.

“This program fits well with our mission and is a great partnership opportunity for us,” he said. “In working with the students we want to look at their interests and find a match as well as provide an opportunity for them to learn a new skill or enhance what they already have.”

Next Step’s headquarters contains a conference room/classroom, multi-purpose work area and kitchen, staff offices, and a room that will be setup as a bedroom. The kitchen will be used for cooking instruction, while the bedroom will be used for organization and learning about skills used in daily living.

“Students will be responsible for the home-cleaning, cooking and yard work,” said Stauffer. “There’s a laundromat nearby, so we’ll walk there and use it.”

 

The headquarters of Manheim Central School District’s new Next Step program

The headquarters of Manheim Central School District’s new Next Step program

 

Students have already been working on the home and have taken ownership of their new program. One student proudly explained that he and the other students have done some painting and placed chairs and desks.

“I’m really looking forward to the start of school and this program. It will help me develop additional skills for going out on my own,” he said, “I’m not sure what I want to do, so the internships will help me narrow it down.”

Amber Kelly who said that she likes cooking and gardening has already had an opportunity to employ her gardening skills. On Aug. 4, she helped beautify the program headquarters by planting flowers in some of the landscape areas.

“I’ll be going to college for culinary arts and food next year,” Kelly said. “I’ll be living on campus, and I want to be better prepared for that.”

“This should open a lot of doors for our students and set them up for a bright future,” Stauffer said.

The building that serves as the program headquarters It formerly housed the district’s business office, which is now located at the district administration building.

“We had an open house for the program in May that was attended by about 50 people, and another one at the beginning of August,” Stauffer said. “We know that people are curious about how this building will be repurposed.”

The district plans to shutter in Burgard Elementary fall 2019, but that should not affect the Next Step program. Business Manager Bryan Howett said the building housing the program is a separate parcel. If the Burgard property is sold after it’s closed, it will not affect the Next Step program.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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