In June, ESD 112’s Student Transition Educational Program Services (STEPS) commemorated their students’ accomplishments in a graduation ceremony. This life-changing, community-based program designed for 18-21-year-olds with disabilities offers vital support as students transition from high school to entering the workforce or continuing education, while enhancing their independent living skills.

The ceremony, held at the STEPS facility in Longview, honored nine students.

“This class started at STEPS during COVID,” said Jeanette Forman, assistant director of Special Education at ESD 112. “This group of students guided us on how to teach the way they learn and to focus on what was most important to them. They truly taught us to focus on possibilities, and not barriers.”

Throughout their time at STEPS, students engage in community-based career exploration and development, education, training, and receive comprehensive support. This experience is instrumental in cultivating their daily living, communication, employability, time management, and social skills, with the ultimate objective of equipping them for success in post-secondary education or employment.

2023 STEPS graduate Toby Larson participated in career development programs at Country Folks Deli and STEPS, learning “…how to talk to people and have a good attitude on the job,” he said.

“In the future, I want to work on improving myself to grow as a better person, and help others out in the community,” Larson said.

During the graduation ceremony, all students gave a presentation to identify what they learned at STEPS

Connection to the local community is an important element that contributes to the success of the STEPS graduates. Local businesses provide internship opportunities for students, something that students and staff recognize as an important element of their experience in the program.

“In the short time these students were able to demonstrate their job skills through their internships in the community, we wanted to show how important our jobsites are to their development and success,” said Work-Based Learning Teacher, Stephenie Ruvalcaba. “The simple act of allowing our students into their place of work allows our students to grow in the areas of confidence, flexibility, time management, independence, and social interactions, that they may not get otherwise.”

The close connections that develop between staff and students is another important element of the program’s and students’ overall success. One staff person that moved out of state at the end of the last school year made a point to return to celebrate the nine graduating students.

Congratulations to STEPS 2023 graduates Toby, Joseph, Deyon, Phoenix, Cassandra, Gracie, Cheyenne, Zander, and Alder!