What is the Next Steps Program?
All Mansfield High School students are familiar with the Project Teammate program, which is offered as a class to students in grade 10-12. In Project Teammate, general education students are paired with Teammate students, and the two work together to complete tasks in the school—delivering papers from the copy machine to teachers, greeting people as they enter the office, recycling, and many more. The Project Teammate program at MHS is well-known in southeastern Massachusetts; the Special Olympics pep rally, which was exceptionally successful in boosting the spirits of all students, further highlighted the brilliance of Project Teammate.
However, there is more to the Special Education department at Mansfield High School. In addition to Project Teammate, MHS also created the Next Steps Program. After students receive their certificate of Attendance, they enter the Next Steps program, which is solely for students of ages 18-22. In this program, students are provided with “instruction in the areas of academics, daily living skills, social skills, and vocational training.” The goal of the program is to prepare the students for after public schooling and aid in the path towards current and future independence.
There are four components to Next Steps, all of which are geared toward leading the students to independence. Daily Living Skills curriculum focuses on the skills needed to live at home, either in group homes or with families. It includes teaching students how to take care of themselves and stay healthy without constant supervision. The second curriculum is Community Awareness, where teachers and Teammate students attend community trips once a week to receive hands-on experience with the lessons taught in a classroom. The third is Leisure Skills, which involves Project Teammate—giving students the opportunity to communicate with general education students, where they work together in the gym and a vocational skill’s class. The last curriculums are Social Interactions and Vocational Developments. In this curriculum, students learn about jobs within the community. The Teammate students are placed in job sites in Mansfield—where they are, as stated by Ms. Heidi Egan (leader of Next Steps), “able to be a part of their own community.” The students are able to “try a number of different jobs based on their personal preference and abilities.” This vocational training will be extremely valuable when the Teammate students exit Mansfield High School and will need to be able to make a living for themselves.
The Special Education department at MHS is truly remarkable—the department is doing everything in its power to make the Teammate students as prepared as possible for what comes next in the future. However, the Special Education department would especially like to thank the various Mansfield-based community stores that have opened their doors to the students so they can gain valuable vocational training: MAGIC PIZZA, GROGAN MARCIANO’S SPORTING GOODS STORE, AUNT ALEDA’S BAKERY, CURVES, BLACK BOX THEATER, and, CHIC-2-CHIC. The Next Steps program is grateful to these businesses, which have always been supportive and helpful to Teammate students as they prepare for their futures. Ms. Egan says, “I love my job”—it is an extremely rewarding experience to see so many courageous, brilliant children grow and develop students and people.
Sources: Ms. Heidi Egan, Next Steps pamphlet
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