RAYMOND – Students from around the area will head to Raymond Central High School later this month with hopes of finding the right path forward for them once they leave high school.
The school will be hosting its first ever transition fair for special education students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
It’s an event Special Education Teacher Kayla Benes has wanted to organize for some time now.
She began sketching out ideas for the event last fall, and she’s getting more hyped up now that more districts are coming on board.
“Once the first couple schools committed to the fair, I was excited,” she said. “It was like it’s going to happen.”
Transition fairs are events where students with disabilities can meet with organizations that can help them move from their life in high school to the next step. That could mean employment at a local business or continuing on into college education.
“We look at their goals,” Benes said. “What they want to do when they graduate high school.”
Transitioning to the post-high school world is a different process for every student, as some may be able to be more independent while others may need assistance. Some may want to go on to college, while others may want to find a job.
Resources exist for students and parents, Benes said, but they can be difficult to track down.
“It’s kind of hard for parents,” she said. “They don’t really know what’s out there.”
College fairs can be useful, but they often aren’t organized for students with IEPs.
“We have kids go down there, but they are often overwhelmed and don’t know where they fit in,” Benes said.
The fair at Raymond Central will bring many of those resources together in one place so parents and students can easily navigate some of the options available to them.
Benes said she’s been making it a goal to attend transition fairs and other related activities to learn how she can help her students as best she can.
“I’ve been going to a lot of transition activities,” she said.
She said the fair will take place in the high school’s main gym March 21 and will feature 14 booths from colleges and businesses and other organizations.
Colleges include Central Community College, Southeast Community College, Concordia and more.
Benes said she wasn’t entirely sure who to contact for the fair back when she started organizing. She did things the old-fashioned way by finding a list of potential resources and calling every number she could find.
“I looked up a list and just started calling people,” she said. “So this has been a lengthy process.”
Transition fairs are one piece of an important puzzle that can improve life for students as they get older, according to the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC). That group cites research that shows that postsecondary outcomes improve when the educators, classmates and family members of students work together to make the transition process more clear.
“What they’re finding is if we don’t provide proper support in high school or a few years after, there’s a big turnover,” Benes said.
Local businesses could provide a resource to schools by bringing students in to help.
“A lot of public schools are just looking for students to receive job skills or training,” Benes said. “If any businesses in the community are interested in allowing students to do a school-to-work program.”
She hopes the fair provides a resource for students and their families.
As of last week, there were many students planning to attend the event, including about a dozen from Central, 30 from Wahoo a few from Milford and some students from Waverly.
The fair should hopefully fill a gap, as there aren’t many fairs usually held at smaller schools.
The fair will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 21. Registration for students is due March 12, and those interested can contact the high school office to learn more.