The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Those with learning disorders can be STARs on TR Campus

By Luan Nguyen/reporter
TR Campus is collaborating with the Fort Worth ISD on a transition program to assist learning-disabled students finishing high school and entering the workforce.

STAR — Students Trained and Ready — is designed to help students interested in a career path that does not include college or vocational training.
The program focuses on independence and life skills, with students learning to create résumés, prepare written reports, use computer software applications, work in teams, observe dress codes and present speeches and presentations.

STAR, currently in its second year, has 13 students aged 18 to 22 who have completed regular high school classes but need a job to graduate under the terms of their high school program.

Olawale Rotimi, transition specialist for the Fort Worth ISD, said one of the biggest challenges for students in the program is they are not sure what they want to do and haven’t had many opportunities to explore careers.

He added that support from parents has always been an issue.

“TCC has a wonderful program,” he said, “but it would be even better if they had more parent support so they [the students] can really continue with their learning at these programs.”

The program can last two to four years depending on student needs. Each year, STAR students, parents and a Fort Worth ISD committee meet to discuss the students’ progress to see if they are ready to graduate, Rotimi said.

Because the majority of the students in transition programs don’t graduate at age 18, they can continue their education in a program like STAR to better prepare themselves for life, he said.

Tiffany Lopez, TR Campus director of continuing education services, coordinates the program.

Having learned about the Life, Education and Preparation Program at Fort Worth ISD’s Boulevard Heights School, Lopez contacted principal Paul Kaufman with the idea of starting something similar. A simple request to bring students to the campus for some training evolved into the STAR program.

One of Lopez’s goals is to offer certifications for the STAR students.

“I have identified with Lowe’s human resource manager,” she said, “and we are partnering to come up with certificates in forklifting and inventory clerk for students once they complete our program.”

TR Campus has hired two students from the program, and others have been hired by Lowe’s, Goodwill and FedEx, Lopez said.

“Some of the Fort Worth ISD staff have been able to see the students transform and transition to becoming more independent,” Lopez said. “It’s amazing. You see students coming in that are very reserved and don’t really have a lot to say, and by the end of the semester, they are up making speeches, recitals and participating in different activities on campus. It’s great!”

Debbie Litke, job coach and program assistant at Fort Worth ISD, said she has recently seen a higher success rate from the program. She said it may have been due to the students’ involvement in volunteering their services to show companies they are capable of being hired.
“We are trying to close the gap — the thought of them not being capable when they are very able,” she said.

Rotimi said he would like someday to have an alumni group of students who graduated from the program and are doing well. Former students, he said, can take a more active role like mentoring and motivating current students.

In hiring instructors for the STAR program, Lopez said, “It is important that they need to have worked with the young adult population before, be patient and be able to think out of the box, meaning being creative and creating a non-traditional learning environment because whatever the students’ disabilities are, they have to adapt to that, like individualized teaching.”

“It’s a remarkable program,” Kaufman said. “The staff are really getting to know the students, and they’re working on the students’ needs. The students have grown and gotten better from the program from self-esteem, social skills, manners. They really feel like adults.”

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