Staff at The Y.A.L.E. School’s Cherry Hill campus are always happy and proud when students graduate, but they are just as happy when students return to share stories of their life after Y.A.L.E. Whether graduates have moved on to college, a career, independent living—or all three—staff enjoy learning about how their transition to adulthood is progressing. It is not surprising, then, that Alumni Night is one of the most anticipated events on the school calendar.
The transition team at Cherry Hill launched Alumni Night several years ago, when they identified the need for current students to connect with peers about the often difficult and confusing path to college, employment, and independent living, and the transportation required to make it all happen! Alumni Night underscores The Y.A.L.E. School’s commitment to providing transition guidance that does not end when a student graduates. It is a valuable forum for students to learn from one another about the next phase in life—searching for a job or college, dating and relationships, getting an apartment, or learning to drive.
Most of Y.A.L.E’s graduates attend area community colleges and many live independently. In fact, for graduates whose transition objectives identified college as a goal, over 95% have enrolled in college courses. Because these students face many academic, residential and social challenges as they pursue their dream of college, the team at Y.A.L.E. is exploring ways to better support students after they have graduated from Y.A.L.E.
This year, nearly 100 guests came to Alumni Night, planned by Y.A.L.E’s Standard 9 students. A student DJ played favorite musical selections, students arranged for food and refreshments to be served, and used an iPhone app to check in guests who had RSVPd. Guests reunited with friends and teachers, played Nintendo Wii games, and danced and talked.
While students hung out, parents, guardians, and Y.A.L.E staff gathered for a presentation by Dr. Nancy J. Patrick, Associate Professor of Special Education and Director of the Graduate Program in Education at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Dr. Patrick is the author of Social Skills for Teenagers and Adults with Asperger Syndrome: A Practical Guide to Day-to-day Life. During her presentation, she discussed transition issues and emphasized the need for parents to adapt to their changing parental roles during the turbulent years for young adults with disabilities. Dr. Patrick invited parents to become mentors and guidance counselors—while at the same time adjusting their expectations to realize that it may take much longer for their children to arrive at desired outcomes than it would for a typical young person.
Alumni Night 2012 was a success, both in terms of fun and entertainment and for social interaction and learning for our students and alumni. With the exponential growth of the Standard 9 Transition Concentration over the last several years, Alumni Night is sure to expand even more in the years ahead.