Campus News - January 14, 2002
COE's Blalock collaborates to create experiential school-to-work programs
By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez
more than 17 years, UNM Professor Ginger Blalock of the College of Education
Special Education Program has been teaching ways to guide youth with disabilities
through the transition from high school to work and adulthood.
Blalock recently received a $146,998 award from the New Mexico State Department
of Education (NMSDE) Special Education Unit to help lead and coordinate several
statewide school-to-career initiatives. She was awarded a similar grant last
Ultimately designed to help teens with exceptionalities pursue meaningful employment
or continue their educations, the initiatives also boost secondary retention
and postsecondary recruitment and help the state meet Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act requirements.
The outcomes for students at risk of failing in school and life, especially
those with disabilities, can be grim when they arent provided careful
relevant preparation, Blalock says.
She says data show that people with disabilities are disproportionately:
· unemployed or underemployed (65-75 percent)
· dependent on family or caregivers for living arrangements
· not participating in postsecondary education or training
· not participating in regular recreation/leisure experiences
While working with juvenile corrections special educators, Blalock learned
that the percentage of incarcerated youth who have disabilities average more
than 60 percent. Most of these youth are diagnosed with emotional or behavioral
disorders and many with learning disabilities as well, she says. These
are the youth who we know from research are more likely to be caught and imprisoned
and who are extremely susceptible to gang recruitment and substance abuse. They
are least likely to figure out how to survive for very long both in jail and
on the streets, and so they are at high risk for early death.
Youth who take part in a school-to-career transition program have better outcomes,
she reports. We also know from studies in New Mexico and around
the country that the single most important predictor of employment success after
high school is having had a paid job while in high school, Blalock says.
The grant-supported initiatives look at the big picture where these
kids are headed as they reach adulthood, Blalock says. Teachers, administrators
and counselors need to put teaching and learning in context so when kids ask,
why do I have to learn this? they have a meaningful response for
Collaborating with Blalock and UNM are Sue Gronewold, transition director,
NMSDE Special Education Unit; the state division of Vocational Rehabilitation;
James Alarid, special education professor, New Mexico Highlands University;
Marilyn DOttavio, transition services director, Albuquerque Public Schools;
other school districts, the Center for Entrepreneurship, Parents Reaching Out,
the Arc of New Mexico, State School to Work Office, Santa Fes Executive
Leadership Council, Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center and the former
National Transition Alliance.
Numerous other stakeholders contribute time and effort, including students,
advocacy organizations and community leaders. Two-year colleges also play a
big role by specializing in diverse learners and career preparation.
Among the initiatives is the Statewide Transition Coordinating Council, which
meets bi-monthly to work on support systems for youth exiting high school. Subgroups
serving as advisors to state and local agencies are working on five major tasks
· Statewide database of youth and young adults in transition
· State transition plan with single point of contact
· Local interagency agreements and transition teams
· Marketing, outreach education and technical assistance
· Professional development of key stakeholders
In its second year of operation, the Transition Specialist Cadre leads to develop
or improve local transition services with a focus on student development.
Another initiative, the Transition Outcomes Project assessed four
pilot school districts Alamogordo, Bernalillo, Roswell and Taos
on their compliance with federal transition planning requirements for 14-22
year olds in 2001. Some 30 districts and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are now
Pathways to Diploma Training trainers help educators and families
focus on graduation options available to students served in special education,
changes in regulations that affect the role of school boards, and more.
The grant will also support the annual Summer Transition Institute. At the
2002 event, set for June 17-19 in Ruidoso, facilitators and local and national
experts will help participants make progress in the areas of interagency linkages
and community transition teams in line with districts local action plans.
Blalock and colleague Deborah Rifenbary are also proposing a new Academy in
Career Awareness, Exploration and Education, in collaboration with the Middle
Rio Grande Business-Education Collaborative (MRGBEC), a non-profit regional
school-to-careers partnership that also oversees the Central N.M. Workforce
Investment Act Youth Council. Other key partners will include NMSDE and area
school districts. This years collaboration with MRGBEC focused on an Educator
in the Workplace program, which helped apprentice teachers and counselors
learn about career development and its place in student development. Sandia
Laboratories, Intel, PNM and many small businesses offer site tours, job shadowing
and paid externships in support of the program.
These initiatives help educators learn how to teach kids to identify
and reach goals and to not only become workers or career oriented adults, but
also good consumers, family members and citizens, Blalock says. For
kids who have disabilities, incidental learning doesnt work. It has to
be experiential. We have to help them make those connections to the adult world.
For information, call Ginger Blalock in the College of Education, 277-5119, email@example.com.
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