At Y.A.L.E.’s high school commencement ceremonies, we often hear our graduates express their gratitude to the teachers and staff members who have inspired, enriched, and transformed their lives while setting them on the path to employment and higher education. One name which is mentioned frequently is Margaret Chapman, the coordinator of the Y.A.L.E. School Cherry Hill’s Standard 9 concentration. You could say that transformation is one her specialties, or more accurately, transition. Using her training in community-based instruction, self-determination, and collaborative partnerships, she helps guide our students through a crucially important turning point in their development: the transition to adult life. “Peggy” (as she is known by her friends and co-workers) has been an integral part of the Y.A.L.E. team for nine years, contributing to the creation of innovative and comprehensive educational programs for students ages 18 to 21 with Asperger’s Disorder and other disabilities.
Previously, Peggy received a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Temple University and worked for 20 years as a broadcast journalist before entering the role of transition specialist. While at CBS in Philadelphia, she researched and produced a community affairs documentary investigating the link between high school preparation and the realities of work and college — which ultimately prompted the leap to her current field of endeavor. Peggy also holds a Master’s Certificate in Transition Special Education from George Washington University with a concentration in post-secondary planning. This year, she was one of the Y.A.L.E. staff members honored with the Ruth K. Newman Award for Excellence.
One of Peggy’s favorite buzzwords is “connections”; she constantly coaches our students to discover the links between academic concepts and the real world, between their lives and others in their community, and between personal and professional environments. Peggy creates connections too, tirelessly networking with parents, school districts, colleges and universities, employers, local businesses and civic organizations, guest lecturers and experts, and educational professionals to provide an ever-evolving array of opportunities and experiences for our students. She often represents Y.A.L.E. at conferences and workshops where she greets the public with her trademark bright smile and a friendly welcome for everyone she interacts with. Peggy has a natural ability to engage with people and that skill has helped power many of the unique programs and projects she has initiated for Y.A.L.E..
Beginning five years ago with just two students, the Y.A.L.E. Standard 9 transition concentration has grown under Peggy’s stewardship into one of the most successful and sought-after services offered by Y.A.L.E., with over 50 students participating in unique life and career skills and college preparatory classes, combined with community-based employment and volunteer experiences. Thanks to her efforts, Standard 9 has partnered with Camden County College in Blackwood NJ to offer college classes and on-campus internships, and our students have worked at part-time jobs and internships in area buinesses too numerous to list. An impressive 94% of Standard 9 graduates who listed attending college as a post-secondary goal are now enrolled in college courses.
If this sounds like a lot of work, then you are just scratching the surface of what Peggy does on a daily basis — all while maintaining a relentlessly upbeat, can-do attitude. No matter what the situation, Peggy always finds the silver lining to the storm cloud, encouraging our students to turn a disadvantage into a chance to succeed. “She is the most positive person I know, with an amazing vision that seems limitless for the young adults at Y.A.L.E.,” said Lauren Romano, a Standard 9 instructor. “She works continuously to improve and grow the program, which makes working with her very inspiring to her colleagues.”
Whether leading the transition team or helping a student ace his college entrance exams, her energetic and dedicated ethic of hard work and optimism provide an example for others to follow and illustrate just how much of herself she is willing to give to support our students and staff.