School Partnership Provides Special Education Students with Internship and Extracurricular Activities 

March 31, 2011

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For two of the special education staff members at Coolidge High School and Mamie D. Lee School, partnering to better serve the needs of their students with special needs was one of the best – and easiest – decisions they ever made.

Cynthia Sheppard, special education coordinator at Coolidge High School, and Helena Newman, community inclusion coordinator at Mamie D. Lee School, were searching for transition resources and inclusion opportunities for the students with intellectual disabilities at their respective schools.

Mamie D. Lee School is a special education center for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Ms. Newman wanted her older students to have the opportunity to attend class and receive their supports and services in a school setting that had a general education population.

Ms. Sheppard wanted to give her graduation-age special education students the opportunity to participate in an internship and learn the real-world job skills needed after leaving Coolidge.

“Students with intellectual disabilities need transition services, and we need to get them prepared before they leave,” said Ms. Sheppard. “We are hoping to really help them with that experience.”

Each week, about 20 students from Mamie D. Lee travel to Coolidge. During that time, they attend ROTC and band classes with other Coolidge students with intellectual disabilities, and then they go to lunch with the entire school.

The Coolidge students take advantage of the partnerships that Mamie D. Lee staff has created with DC Vision at the Logan Annex, Washington Hospital Center and the National Museum of the American Indian. Eight students work at these sites once a week, learning important job skills that they will need after graduation.

Both Ms. Sheppard and Ms. Newman say they believe the student exchange has been successful for all of their students.

“We track the data of the students and their progress. The band and ROTC teacher at Coolidge and the Mamie D. Lee teacher measure their performance as they learn to play instruments and participate in ROTC instructional activities, and we collect data that supports whether or not they made progress,” said Ms. Newman. “All the data indicate overwhelmingly that the students have made progress and have enhanced self-concepts.”

The culminating activity for the school year is for the Mamie D. Lee and Coolidge students to play their instruments and to perform the ROTC drills at the Mamie D. Lee graduation ceremony.

The exchange program will continue next year. Both Ms. Coolidge and Ms. Sheppard are looking forward to giving their students the opportunity to meet other students in an inclusive setting, participate in career development activities and academic experiences through band classes and ROTC.

“This partnership is an outstanding success-orientated program for students that facilitates possibilities,” said Ms. Newman.

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