In celebration of Disability History and Awareness Month, Meadowbrook High School held the Transition Lunch & Learn Fair last Tuesday for students in the school’s Exceptional Education program. The event provided them with the necessary resources for life after high school.
Students first gathered in the foyer of the school’s auditorium for a free lunch catered by Chick-fil-A, where numerous information booths and tables were set up to educate them on various opportunities they could pursue while in high school.
According to Teddy Mintz, an Exceptional Education teacher at Meadowbrook – who also played a major role in coordinating the event – the transition sought to propel the long-term development of the 258 students in the program.
“This really benefitted our students because it brought positive awareness to themselves as people with disabilities. It helped our students by giving them the tools they need to be as successful as they can in life,” Mintz said.
Organizations in attendance were John Tyler Community College; J. Sargent Reynolds Community College; representatives from the I’m Determined Project – an organization seeking to guide people with disabilities toward success through self-advocacy and self-awareness; New Well Fund, offering technology and funding for technology for people with disabilities; the Central Virginia Chapter of the Autism Society of America; VCU Disability Services and Supports; as well as VCU’s Partnership for People with Disabilities.
After students met and conversed with the numerous organizations, they were directed into the auditorium where a panel of keynote speakers then addressed them and their futures. Among them were Keith Hare, the deputy secretary of Health and Human Resources and Governor McDonnell’s cabinet; Samantha Hollins, an educational specialist for the Virginia Department of Education; Mike Asip, the director of Exceptional Education for Chesterfield County Public Schools; and Dana Yarbrough, from Partnership with People with Disabilities from VCU.
“The bottom line is nobody can reach their goals by themselves …,” said Judy McAverill, who is part of the Transition and Vocational Team and Services for Chesterfield County Public Schools, during the auditorium session of the transition fair. “You need a passion, and let us help you find that passion.”
In an attempt to relate to the students in Meadowbrook’s Exceptional Education program, Hare, speaking on behalf of Governor McDonnell, shared his own experience of growing up with a disability and the challenges that went along with his adolescence.
His speech was an effort to motivate the students and expose the numerous resources that surround them on a daily basis.
“I will not be the one to tell you the odds are against you; the odds are against individuals with disabilities. But I believe those odds give you an opportunity to succeed,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have every opportunity to succeed in this world. You have educators around you that will literally and figuratively wrap their arms around you and assure you that you will succeed. The only thing that will limit you is if you give up, if you don’t try hard enough; so if you want to get there, you can get there.”